Thousands of rare Irrawaddy dolphins have been found in Bangladeshi waters, a wildlife advocacy group said Wednesday, a hopeful sign for a vulnerable species found only in small numbers elsewhere. However, the newly discovered population is already threatened by climate change and fishing nets, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said.
Ainun Nishat, the Bangladesh head of International Union for Conservation of Nature, however, said the finding was an indication that "ecology in the area is not dead yet." "There is plenty of food, mainly fish, in the area for the dolphins to eat," said Nishat, who was not involved in the study. "What is now needed is to restrict fishing in the area to protect the dolphins."
Nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, which are related to orcas or killer whales, were found living in freshwater regions of Bangladesh's Sundarbans mangrove forest and the adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced.
The results of the study were made public Wednesday at the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Maui, Hawaii. The news release did not say when the study was conducted but Bangladeshi researchers in the team said it was launched in 2004.
According to New York Times American and Bangladeshi biologists conducted the dolphin survey by boat. The researchers said that the six- to eight-foot dolphins, while apparently thriving, needed to be protected and monitored in view of rising threats like entanglement in fishing nets, a decline in freshwater flows because of dam construction and inland diversions of water along the rivers that sustain the coastal ecosystems.