Young World

Out of harm’s way

Getting a breather: The river dolphin. Photo: AFP

Getting a breather: The river dolphin. Photo: AFP  

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There’s good news for the river dolphins that live in the Ganges. They will soon have a reserve of their own!

The River Dolphin, India’s ‘National Aquatic Animal’, is often referred to as the Tiger of the Ganges. Do you know why? Because the dolphin holds the same position in the river ecosystem as a tiger holds in a forest. 

Just as the number of tigers in the wild are decreasing in number, the river dolphins numbers are vulnerable. They are now on the endangered list. River dolphins inhabit the major rivers of the sub-continent. They are also referred to as Susu and are found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Some of the reasons for the dwindling population is direct killing, breaking up of their habitation because of the construction of dams and barrages, indiscriminate fishing, and finally because of pollution.

The stretch of the Ganges, that flows in West Bengal is known as the Hoogly. It is roughly 500 km long and passes through the city of Kolkata which is densely populated and then flows into the Bay of Bengal in the Sundarbans. 

Safe haven

In a bid to protect these river dolphins, it is proposed that a community reserve would be set up. A committee would be formed to examine how the reserve could be set up in the river between Malda and Sundarbans. The Chief Wildlife Warden Azam Zaidi has said that the reserve would be up in a year’s time.

The stretch of the river between Malda and Sundarbans is not within a forest or a sanctuary. So, everyone who uses that stretch of water has to be involved in protecting dolphins. Forest department officials have said they would conduct a census to estimate the population of the dolphins. Also, fishermen are dependent on the river for their livelihood and hence they should be allowed to continue to fish.

The reserve would be created over this 500 km stretch that lies between Malda and the Sundarbans in West Bengal. The decision that was taken last week stressed on their conservation. The state's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), said that they would be collaborating with the Wildlife Institute of India, WWF (India) and similar agencies to help them plan and execute.

Fun fin facts

They grow up to anywhere between 4.5 feet to 8 feet depending on their habitat.

They cannot survive in just salty waters, and need fresh water too. The Amazon in South America, Yangtze and Mekong in China, and the Ganges and Indus in India are home to these dolphins. 

These dolphins are social animals. They travel in pods or groups, and each pod may contain up to 100 dolphins.

As parents, they are protective about their pups. While travelling, the adults keep the baby dolphins on the inner side.

They mainly feed on smaller fish. Even a six-month-old pup can eat fish.

Their torpedo-like shape gives them an edge over other fish and they can swim fast at a speed of almost 25 kilometre per hour.

Like other dolphins, river dolphins too have bio-sonar — a sound wave-based echolocation system that they use to identify the location of other fish under water.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 6:31:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/river-dolphins-in-the-ganges-will-soon-have-a-reserve-of-their-own/article7818382.ece

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