More Dolphins catch up in Terai region

Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh: Indo Gangetic dolphins in the Terai region of Katarniaghat of Dudhwa tiger reserve has gone up as per the ongoing survey of the forest department.

Nearly six dozen dolphins were sighted in Katarnaighat area during the three-day long massive survey conducted jointly by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Forest department which concluded today, official sources said here.

The figure included 69 dolphins from Gerwa river, which originates in Nepal and comes to India through Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, up to Kailashpuri barrage in Bahraich district. Earlier, only 33 dolphins were sighted there. Gangetic dolphins are known to be highly environment sensitive and can survive only in unpolluted waters.

Field director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Shailesh Prasad and divisonal forest officer (DFO)wildlife R K Singh said river dolphins had been awarded the status of national aquatic animal at par with national animal tiger and it was a matter of joy that their number had increased.

Associate director, WWF (Fresh Water Division), Sandip Behra, who coordinated the dolphin survey across Uttar Pradesh said it was the first time a massive survey spreading to all the dolphin-present areas was conducted simultaneously, as earlier counting was done in fragmented areas.

Describing dolphins as the mascot of pure aquatic environment, Behra said their protection, conservation and survival were must to preserve and protect river ecology.

The Gangetic dolphins, found in the region, are rare specie. Earlier, it was found in Ganga river basin and all the linked rivers. But now, its habitat is limited to a few rivers. Brahmaputra, Ganga, Chambal rivers are its natural habitats. In these rivers, around 2,500 dolphins are found. Gangetic dolphins have been included in the Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The specie needs highest degree of protection.

According to a recent population estimate of the Gangetic Dolphins by the World Wide Fund for Nature India (WWF-India), UP is the only state where the dolphin population has increased since 2005.

The Gangetic Dolphin or Platinista Gangetica was declared the national aquatic animal in October. Sandeep Behera, coordinator, freshwater species, WWF-India, said according to initial estimates 547 dolphins are reported in UP. The earlier figure, he said, stood at 500. He, however, added that the survey in the state is in progress and certain areas are yet to be covered.

“On the Union government’s directions we started with the process of formulation of an action plan for conservation of dolphins across the country. As the first step we are surveying the dolphin population in various states to ascertain the exact figure. From our survey so far, we can easily say that UP is the only state where the number of dolphins in some stretches has increased,” said Sandeep Behera, coordinator, freshwater species, WWF-India.

In UP, the dolphins are found in stretches of upper Ganga River from Bijnore to Narora, Chambal River on the borders of Etawah and Agra, and Gerwa River in Bahraich district of Katerniaghat Sanctuary.

According to the WWF-India estimates, the number of dolphins in Gerwa so far, increased to 48 as compared to 36 in 2006. The survey at Narora in UP will be conducted next month. “On surveying the area, we found that the habitat here is favourable for dolphins. We also sighted eight calves here. We have reports of dolphin sightings from Sharda, Rapti and Saryu rivers, where we will start a survey soon. No estimation of dolphins has been made in these rivers in the past, so it will be a first such survey in this area,” said Behera.