Dolphins in doldruns

Published: Tuesday 15 August 1995

RIVER dolphins - often the targets of attack from fishermen who kill them for the oil in their fat - have finally come in for attention from the Asian River Dolphin Committee, the international working group on the docile creature. The Committee has recommended that appropriate changes be made in the Indian Fisheries Act to enable the dolphin population to stabilise.

One of the main threats to the dolphins arises from predatory fishermen who trap them accidentally in their nets along with other species. The Committee has suggested a controlled use of fishing gear and techniques. "Every year about 50 dolphins are killed in the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. This is an alarming mortality rate for a population of about 2,000", says Dr R S Lal Mohan from the Conservation of Nature Trust in Calicut, Kerala.

Asian river dolphins have a life span of 33 years, but breed only once in 2 years. A total of 9 to 10 calves are born in a dolphin's lifetime. Continued attacks have endangered their meagre numbers. Being at the apex of a river's food chain, the dolphin's survival and well-being reflects the health of the river's eco-system.

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