Q. Why is this in News?
A. According to the latest census report prepared by the Madhya Pradesh forest department, the number of dolphins in Chambal River has been reduced by 13% in 4 years.
There are just 68 dolphins left in the 435-kilometre-long Chambal river sanctuary which passes through three states i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Gangetic Dolphins are the sanctuary’s main attraction. The decreasing trend is continuing from 2016 when there were 78 dolphins.
Q. What was its status in past?
A. The maximum carrying capacity of dolphins in Chambal is 125.
The dolphins were spotted for the first time in 1985 in Chambal River (a tributary of Yamuna) near Etawah, Uttar Pradesh at that time, the number was more than 110.
Q. What are reasons for its decline?
- Unfavourable Habitat: It faces the threat of hunting and entanglement in fishing gear due to fragmented habitats.
- Poaching: Fragmented habitats lead to the problem of poaching for not only dolphins, but also for gharials.
- Illegal Sand Mining: It is rampant in Bhind and Morena in MP and Dholpur in Rajasthan and putting the whole ecosystem of the river in danger.
- Further, the forest team never gets support from locals.
- Consumption of Water: Chambal is a lifeline for three states i.e. MP, UP and Rajasthan and the locals are withdrawing water daily. It has led to gradual decrease in the water levels and needs to be addressed properly to save the dolphins as well as gharial.
- Lack of Studies: Dolphins are a sensitive animal. There is a need of study on their favourable environment and communication system.
Q. What are some of Governments initiative for same?
- The Forest Department of MP has collaborated with the scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to do a research for safeguarding and increasing the population of dolphins in Chambal.
- In 2006, the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) ordered a ban on mining in the sanctuary area to save the flora and fauna of the river.
- Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district is India’s only sanctuary for dolphins for their protection.
Q. What is habitat of Gangetic Dolphin?
A. It is found in parts of the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
It requires at least 3 metre depth and optimum flow for sustainable habitat.
Q. Are they fresh water species?
A. Yes, It is among the four freshwater dolphins in the world.
The other three are:
- The ‘Baiji’ now likely extinct from the Yangtze River in China,
- The ‘Bhulan’ of the Indus in Pakistan, and
- The ‘Boto’ of the Amazon River in Latin America.
These four species live only in rivers and lakes.
Q. What is its peculiar characteristics?
A. It has rudimentary eyes and uses echolocation (through ultrasonic sound) to navigate and hunt. It is a highly intelligent freshwater mammal placed into the infraorder Cetacea. It is India's national aquatic animal and is popularly known as ‘Susu’.
Q. What is the Protection Status of Gangetic Dolphin?
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Endangered
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule 1
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix-I.