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The Gangetic River Dolphin

News: Gangetic River Dolphin was beaten to death by a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh leading to the arrest of three people. 

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

Conservation 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. 

 

Characteristics: 

  • Features:  
  • 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 which 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 Indus river of Pakistan and the Boto in Amazon river in Latin America. 
  • Food Habits: hey 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 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 impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations. 
  • Project DolphinIt was announced by 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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