Irrawaddy dolphins “functionally extinct” in Laos

by   Profile Mares   When 1st November 2016
Mekong dolphins (c) Lor Kimsan / WWF Kambodscha
Mekong baby dolphin with mother (Summer 2016) (c) Lor Kimsan / WWF Kambodscha
Mekong baby dolphin with mother (Summer 2016) (c) Lor Kimsan / WWF Kambodscha
Mekong baby dolphin with mother (Summer 2016) (c) Lor Kimsan / WWF Kambodscha

No hope left for the remaining dolphins

Irrawaddy dolphin has lost the battle for survival in Laos. The WWF
declared the species functionally extinct in the East Asian country.
There are just three of them left in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool
between southern Laos and northern Cambodia, down from six individuals
earlier this year.

There is no hope left for the remaining dolphins. The population is no longer able to recover,” said WWF Germany's Asia reporter Stefan Ziegler in German.

With just three individuals, the species is now functionally extinct in
the trans-boundary pool, as there are too few potential breeding pairs
to ensure its survival.

The main threat and most important
reason for the Irrawaddy dolphin's decline is fishing. However, the
fishermen responsible are not specifically catching them, but it is the
gillnets they cast into the rivers to catch fish that are the culprit.
The dolphins get caught in these nets and then drown.

In many
parts of the world, gillnet fishing is banned, as it is in Cambodia as
well. In the Mekong River, there are still about 80 Irrawaddy dolphins
(sometimes called “Mekong dolphins”). However, their survival remains

In Cambodia, they are being caught in illegal nets. On
top of that, the pollution in the river, resulting from pesticides and
heavy metals from agriculture and industrial activities, is still high.
If the Mekong dolphin is to survive, the river needs to be a safe
habitat for them,
” said Ziegler.

During the summer this
year, WWF staff had observed a calf and her mother swimming in the
waters, sparking off hopes for the species' survival for the first time
in a long while (see also: Offspring for rare Mekong Dolphins).

Irrawaddy dolphins bear offspring every two to three years. They can
grow to more than 2.7 metres long and weigh 150 kilogram’s.

curb overfishing and illegal fishing, the WWF has established several
fisheries on the Mekong River itself. There are also 68 trained river
guards spread out over 16 sections along a 150-km stretch. They patrol
the area to ensure that the regulations are enforced in the designated
dolphin-safe areas. The success of these arrangements: In 2004, their
population declined by seven percent, and currently stands at only 1.6
The villagers are also provided with options for
alternative sources of income, in the form of eco-tourism and conducting
dolphin-watching cruises for tourists.

See here for more information

Written by
Profile Mares
When 1st November 2016
Location Mekong River, Provinz Bolikhamsai, Laos

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