For the conservation of Indus dolphins – one of the world’s rarest mammals – the Punjab government along with WWF-India are conducting the first organized census on their population,
Found only in India and Pakistan, the Indus dolphins are confined to only a 185 km stretch between Talwara and Harike Barrage in India’s Beas river in Punjab.
Officials from the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab and WWF-India are currently working in two teams and will come to an estimate regarding the dolphin population over the five-day exercise.
According to Suresh Babu, Director River Wetland and Water Policy, WWF-India, the most flourishing population of the Indus dolphin, platanista gangetica minor, is found across Pakistan where their numbers are estimated to be around 1,800 over a stretch of 1,500 km of the Indus river.
In India, a tiny population survives in this small stretch of the Beas river. Experts say they were also found in Sutlej decades back, however, river pollution is believed to be a major cause of their extinction from the habitat.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), construction of critical barrage is associated with the large-scale decline in the area of occupancy, “which have not ceased”. IUCN suspects the population size of the Indus river dolphins has reduced by more than 50% since 1944.
A blind species that communicates through echo like bats do, Indus dolphins are one of the seven freshwater dolphins found across the world.