The Gangetic River Dolphin

About the Species: It is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The Gangetic River DolphinConservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972: Schedule 1

Habitat: They prefer deep waters in and around the confluence of rivers and can be an indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem as they can only live-in freshwater.


The distribution range of the Ganges river dolphins in India covers seven states namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The ideal rivers for Gangetic river Dolphin are:

  • The upper Ganga River (in Uttar Pradesh),
  • Chambal River (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh),
  • Ghaghra and Gandak Rivers (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh),
  • Ganga River, from Varanasi to Patna (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar),
  • Son and Kosi rivers (Bihar),
  • Brahmaputra from Sadia (foothills of Arunachal Pradesh) upto Dhubri (on the Bangladesh border) and
  • Kulsi River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River


  • The female Gangetic Dolphins are larger than males. They are generally blind and catch their prey in a unique manner. They emit an ultrasonic sound that reaches the prey.
  • They are popularly known as ‘Susu’ which refers to the noise the dolphin is said to make when it breathes.
  • The Government of India has recognised them as National Aquatic Animal and is the official animal of the Indian city of Guwahati.
  • It is also among the four freshwater dolphins in the world- the other three are: Baiji (likely extinct) found in Yangtze River in China, the Bhulan in the Indus river of Pakistan, and the Boto in the Amazon river in Latin America.

Food Habits: They have a preference for deep waters, where prey availability is high. They mainly feed on fish and invertebrates, using echolocation to detect their prey.

Threats: Direct killing, Habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing, Pollution, absence of a coordinated conservation plan, lack of awareness and continuing anthropogenic pressure are posing incessant threats to the existing Gangetic dolphin population.

Conservation Initiatives:

  • Wildlife Act Protection: After the launch of the Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government in 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972. This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
  • Conservation Plan: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020. Which identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and the impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
  • Project Dolphin: It was announced by the Indian Prime Minister in August 2020. It is a ten-year project that focuses on both river and marine Dolphins. It is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.
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