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WWF-Pakistan and SWD successfully rescue stranded Indus River Dolphin

Posted on 11 July 2016

Sukkur, A WWF-Pakistan and Sindh Wildlife Department joint team, along with the local fishermen community successfully rescued a stranded female Indus river dolphin today from the Salar Tributary of Kirthar Canal located 170 km off from Sukkur. The trained rescue team led by Imran Malik, Project Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan and Mir Akhtar Hussain Talpur, In-charge Indus Dolphin Centre, Sindh Wildlife Department was dispatched today after the dolphin was spotted in shallow water and was carefully captured, transported in a sound proof vehicle (and constantly kept moist) until its release in the Indus River at Sukkur Barrage upstream. The female dolphin is about 3.5 feet in length and weighs about 18 kg. WWF-Pakistan together with Sindh Wildlife Department has been monitoring this dolphin since 1 June, which was moved from the main river to small tributaries originating from Kirthar Canal to ensure its timely rescue in case of stranding. The dolphin was spotted stranded today at Salar Tributary, which has a narrow channel and extremely low-water level and was rescued immediately from there.

Getting stranded in low waters is a constant threat that this endangered species faces, which usually occurs during the period of canal closures when flood gates are closed resulting in a drop in water level. Furthermore, intensive fishing in the core dolphin habitat is another threat which increases the probability of dolphins getting entangled in fishing nets, making it critical to continuously monitor the Indus River and adjacent canals.

WWF-Pakistan has initiated numerous programmes to support and protect the population of these dolphins in collaboration with partners and has rescued more than 119 dolphins since 1992. Community awareness and education has also helped substantially decrease stranding-induced dolphin mortalities in recent years. According to Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan, “WWF-Pakistan as part of its existing Indus River Dolphin Conservation initiative, undertaken with the financial support of Sona Welfare Foundation, established a dolphin monitoring network of representatives of relevant departments and local communities to monitoring the Indus River and adjacent canals and tributaries. The team thus far has conducted about 85 monitoring and awareness raising surveys of the Indus River, adjacent canals and villages this year and rescued two dolphins during this year. WWF-Pakistan recently set up a 24-hour phone helpline, 071 561 5505, to report stranded dolphins to WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department." He also highlighted that intensive fishing in the core dolphin habitat is another threat to the survival of this species. He referred to a recent incident of the mortality of dolphin calf, which was found with a broken rostrum possibly due to entanglement in a fishing net. Freshwater fishing is one of the major sources of livelihood for riverine communities. "Fisheries legislation needs a revision to protect fish populations, improve clauses of permissible gear, enhance penalties to minimise illegal fishing practices and fisheries induced mortalities of this species,” he added.

The Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor), an endangered freshwater cetacean, is a WWF priority species. Pakistan is home to approximately 1,452 Indus river dolphins, distributed between Chashma and Kotri barrages. The Indus river dolphin population is highly fragmented due to the construction of water regulatory barrages with the largest population concentrated between Guddu and Sukkur barrages, a legally protected area known as the Indus Dolphin Game Reserve.


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