The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has published the news last week that last month, a total of five Irrawaddy dolphins, a species closely related to the Orcas, were found dead on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River (formerly Irrawaddy), in Myanmar (formerly Burma), a group that is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.
Researchers from the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) confirming that of the five, three were killed as a result of entanglement in fishing gear, more specifically gill-net’s, while the other two were considered to have died of natural causes (old age).
This toothed whale is found in coastal, mostly muddy waters at river mouths. They have only been seen close to the shore and can be found in both, ocean and fresh water. Although some small-scale hunting is going on, the dolphin is also seen by some groups as a sacred animal, which they will free if entangled in fishing nets.
The IUCN marine mammal specialists group considers the populations of the Ayeyarwady of Myanmar, with 59 individuals; the Mahakam River, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, with 59-79 individuals; Malampaya Sound, Palawan, Philippines, with 77 individuals ; Mekong River, with 69 individuals; and Songkhla Lake in Thailand, with less than 50 mature individuals as Critically Endangered. And although a few areas where the species occurs have been designated as protected, little has been done to conserve dolphin habitat.*
After two studies initiated by WDCS and WCS the Department of Fisheries (DoF), Burma, established a protected area for the dolphins and cooperative cast-net fishermen in a 74-km river segment just upstream of the city of Mandalay in December 2005. A follow-up range-wide survey of the population in January 2010 suggests that as a result of the efforts the number of animals has stabilized or may have even increased, although this recent news of the deaths of five animals is a major blow to the conservation effort.
Brian Smith et al
*CMS – Convention on Migratory Species
Read full story (link no longer active) at The Irrawaddy.
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