Dolphins are frequently targeted by poachers for their skin and oil
A Gangetic dolphin was found dead near Mokama in Patna district on May 29, 2023 — an incident second of its kind in Sangat Ghat (bank of river Ganga) within the last 72 hours.
India’s national aquatic animal is protected under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972. This schedule covers endangered species that need rigorous protection.
Hunting species under this Schedule is prohibited throughout India, except under threat to human life or in case of a disease that is beyond recovery.
There are provisions for a three-year jail term and a fine of Rs 3,000-Rs 25,000 for possessing any body part of an animal listed in Schedule I.
Dolphins are frequently targeted by poachers for their skin and oil.
According to Gopal Sharma, who is senior scientist and joint director of the Zoological Survey of India, the Gangetic dolphins were either killed by dredging or after being trapped in a big fishing net. He added that both these possibilities exist.
The forest department has sent the carcass for a post-mortem to find the cause of death.
Dredging not only degrades marine habitat but the noise can force the blind Gangetic dolphins to move away from their preferred habitats, lead to changes in their eating habits, temporary hearing loss and increase in stress hormone levels.
Sharma said the latest incident raised questions about the much-hyped Gangetic dolphin conservation programmes carried out by the government — most recently Project Dolphin, an Indian government initiative to conserve both riverine and oceanic dolphin species launched in 2021.
This dolphin is found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Indian state of Bihar is home to around half of India’s estimated 3,000 Gangetic dolphins.
The presence of dolphins is a sign of a healthy riverine ecosystem. They prefer water that is at least five-eight feet deep and are usually found in turbulent waters, with enough fish for them to feed on.
The Gangetic river dolphin is one of six freshwater dolphin species worldwide. The other five include the Pink river dolphin, the tucuxi, Indus river dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin and the Yangtze Finless Porpoise.
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