Ministry releases guide for safe rescue, release of Ganges River Dolphins

The manual has details of identification of the species, on-site and off-site operations

November 01, 2021 10:46 pm | Updated 10:46 pm IST - Kolkata

Ganges river dolphins are still listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red list.

Ganges river dolphins are still listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red list.

The Jal Shakti Ministry on Monday released a guide for the safe rescue and release of stranded Ganges River Dolphins. The document has been prepared by the Turtle Survival Alliance, India Program and Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department (EFCCD), Uttar Pradesh. The guide has been drawn from years of experience of the organisation while rescuing 25 Ganges River Dolphins (GRDs) stranded in irrigation canals.

The GRDs have been designated the National Aquatic Animal of India since 2010 and are listed as ‘Endangered’ under IUCN Red List Assessments, Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (1972), Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Entrapped in canals

The species, whose global population is estimated at 4,000, are (nearly 80%) found in the Indian subcontinent. They often accidentally enter canal channels in northern India and are often entrapped, and die as they are unable to swim up against the gradient, eventually getting stressed and harassed by the locals.

The manual, endorsed by the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, has details of identification of the species and on-site and off-site operations. The off-site operations include permit and equipment while on-site involves crowd control, capture and handling, transfer, transport and release.

“Found throughout the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India and Bangladesh, the Ganges River Dolphin [ Platanista gangetica gangetica] is a global priority and is also an indicator of healthy aquatic systems,” said Shailendra Singh, director of TSA India Program. Only three species of freshwater dolphins are remaining on the earth after the functional extinction of the Chinese river Dolphin (Baiji) in 2006. The guide was also simultaneously released via local fishermen at the Ghaghra river, a prime habitat where most of the rescued dolphins were released in the past few years.

The document says the GRD faces many threats in the Ganga Basin. “Dwindling populations can be attributed to wide-scale habitat degradation from pollution, hydroelectric and development projects and industrial run-off, as well as accidental deaths via entanglement in fishing nets or by villagers from curiosity, opportunistic poaching for meat and oil in certain pockets of the country,” the document added.

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