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Over 4000 Gangetic Dolphins in India: Indian Wildlife Institute

According to a recent report by the Wildlife Institute of India, there are more than 4000 Gangetic dolphins in the Gangetic River basin. Over 2000 of these dolphins are found in Uttar Pradesh, primarily in the Chambal River. This increase suggests that the river’s pollution levels are declining, and the government’s conservation efforts are proving effective.

Gangetic River Dolphin

The Ganges river dolphin, also known as the blind dolphin, Ganges susu, or Hihu, has the scientific name Platanista gangetica. Historically found in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems, the dolphin is now present in specific stretches of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Barak river system in India, as well as in river systems in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Characteristics of Gangetic Dolphins

Gangetic dolphins are blind and live exclusively in freshwater. They hunt using sonar, emitting ultrasonic sound waves that bounce off prey. These dolphins are usually found alone or in small groups. As mammals, they must surface every 30-120 seconds to breathe, producing a distinctive ‘susu’ sound when exhaling.

Threats to Gangetic Dolphins

The population of Gangetic dolphins has declined due to several factors:

  • Unintentional killing through entanglement in fishing gear.
  • Poaching for oil used in traditional medicine.
  • Habitat destruction from development projects, pollution, and noise from vessel traffic.

Government Efforts to Save Gangetic Dolphins

The government of India has implemented various measures to protect Gangetic dolphins:

  • Listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, providing the highest degree of legal protection.
  • Declared the National Aquatic Animal of India on May 18, 2010.
  • Included in the list of 22 critically endangered species under the Centrally sponsored scheme ‘Development of Wildlife Habitats.’
  • Established the Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur, Bihar.
  • Developed a comprehensive action plan (2022-2047) for river dolphin and aquatic habitat conservation.
  • Declared a Dolphin Sanctuary in the Chambal Sanctuary by the Uttar Pradesh government.
  • Launched Project Dolphin in 2019 under the Arth Ganga part of the Namami Ganga Project, aiming to double the dolphin population by 2030.

Wildlife Institute of India

Established in 1982 under the Union Ministry of Forest and Climate Change, the Wildlife Institute of India trains personnel, conducts research, and advises on wildlife conservation and management. Its headquarters is in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

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