Saving the Indus River dolphin

dolphinOf the many threats to the survival of the Indus river dolphin the most serious is the fact that the animal must compete with 188 million Pakistanis who depend on the river waters for agriculture and other activity, says a new study.

The study published in Biological Conservation last month (December 2015) recommends translocating the 1,200—1,700 surviving dolphins upstream of the Indus, which flows from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.

According to the study, the freshwater mammal, which once existed on a 3,500- kilometre stretch of the river and side channels, has lost 80 per cent of its habitat over the last century, mostly through irrigation projects.

The animal, which is also threatened by fishing, chemical pollution and depleting flows, is now largely confined to a 189-kilometre stretch of the Indus falling within the Sindh Dolphin Reserve.

The study recommends translocating the animal upstream, although this is considered risky by experts, including those from the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD).“Dolphins do get trapped in irrigation canals and are rescued every year and returned to the river, but the distance is not so much and we can manage,” says Saeed Baloch, head of the SWD. “To take them upstream will not be without risks.”

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