Gangetic river dolphins struggling to survive: WWF

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is frantically appealing to save the Gangetic Dolphins in Garmukhteshwar, home to some of the world’s rare fresh water dolphins now being driven to extinction due to poaching and excessive fishing.

The World Conservation Union had recently changed the status of the Platanista Gangetica, one of the only four freshwater dolphins in the world, from vulnerable to endangered.

Latest surveys show the population, which swam freely in India’s sprawling Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, had fallen to just 1500 from the already moderate 5000 from the 1980s.

WWF says fragmentation of their habitat by barrages and dams, lack of awareness and education of the river’s stakeholders, pollution of large stretches in the rivers and killing for oil and its blubber are its biggest threats.

The international body has now roped in local fishermen, school children, local environmental groups and even armymen, for a riverboat rally to raise awareness about saving the beautiful animals.

The group is campaigning all along the dolphin habitat in the Ganges, educating people of the threat these extremely docile mammals are facing.

Parikshit Gautam, Director-Fresh Water and Wetlands Programme, WWF-India said the river dolphins are the watchdogs of the water and keep it clean off natural toxins and pollutants ensuring clean water for millions alongside the river plains.

Gautam said the locals are extremely aware of their environment but did not know about conservation and this campaign was designed precisely to plug this loophole.

“Local people know that the presence of dolphins and all but they do not know what threat they are facing. You must have realised during the campaign they do care about the nearby areas including the river, including the species but exactly they are not aware that there is such a serious threat to the river dolphins. So this campaign basically is part of our education and awareness programme vis-‘-vis dolphin conservation and that’s why we want to do it all along the river so that the major stakeholder, who are there all along the river are at least aware. The government departments are coming forward, institutions are coming forward, the schools are coming forward, so it has really created a very good forum,” he said.