Conservation Department / WWF-Pakistan

Indus River Dolphin


The Indus River dolphin was distributed in a wide range, once found in the Indus River and in its major tributaries in Punjab: Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi and Jhelum, but is now confined to the main channel of the Indus River. The water regulatory barrages constructed on the Indus River are responsible for highly fragmented population of Indus River dolphin confining it into six subpopulations. Fragmented subpopulations may face hazardous impacts of inbreeding and species can lead to significant loss of genetic diversity. Shortage of water and water diversion to meet agricultural needs of the country resulted in extirpation of Indus River dolphin from upper reaches of the Indus River. Increased days with zero flow downstream of Kotri Barrage restricted dolphin’s population from moving further southwards significantly limiting its distribution range.

Accidental mortality of Indus River dolphins is attributed to entanglements in fishing nets as by-catch of fish, unsustainable fishing practices and entrapment in irrigation canals. Its mortality has increased dramatically after the devastating flood in 2010. Intensified fishing practices using illegal means while violating laws of fisheries and wildlife resulted in the highest mortality in year 2011.

Stranding of dolphin in irrigation canals particularly in low flow season is detrimental to its existing population. Fishing season accompanied by canal closure increases the risk of dolphin mortality when it gets stranded in small pools in canals.

Contamination of river water due to agrochemicals and industrial waste significantly contribute to deterioration of Indus River dolphin’s core and potential habitats.

Did you know?

A total of 102 dead dolphins have been recorded in a period of 20 years between 1993 and 2013.