Saving the Gangetic River Dolphin
India had declared the Ganges River Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal of India. The Ganges River Dolphin is a rare species of dolphins and is among one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks.
The distribution range of the Ganges River Dolphins in India covers seven states namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
The Ganges River Dolphin has a sturdy, yet flexible, body with large flippers and a low triangular dorsal fin. It weighs up to 150 kg. The calves are chocolate brown at birth and becomes grayish brown in adulthood with a smooth and hairless skin. Females are larger than males. The maximum size of a female is 2.67m and of a male 2.12 m.
Listed by IUCN as ‘endangered’ and placed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Ganges River Dolphin enjoys high levels of legal protection both nationally and internationally. Yet its numbers continue to decline. The absence of a coordinated conservation plan and lack of awareness are posing an incessant threat to the existing dolphin population.
WWF-India has been working closely with various government departments, specially the State Forest Department ,local NGOs, scientists, researchers and universities to ensure the implementation of the action plan through capacity building and carry out conservation awareness and education activities.
Aimed at conserving the national aquatic animal, the Uttar Pradesh state government launched the ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’ campaign in 2012, a joint effort of the forest department and ‘River For Life, Life For River’ program of WWF-India. The dolphin census 2015 has counted 1,263 dolphins in the state.
The census started from Ganges barrage in Kanpur. As many as 21 teams were constituted to carry out the exercise. The boats moving at a speed of 7 to 10 km per hour surveyed 70km of the river stretch every day.
The first ‘scientific and detailed’ census of the dolphins in UP was done in 2012. About 671 dolphins were counted across 2,800 km stretch of the river Ganges and its tributaries. There was no census done in 2013 and 2014. In 2005, WWF-India had counted 600 dolphins in the rivers of UP.
The improvement is heartening, however, there is still much to do.