March 31, 2009
“This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins,” said Dr. Brian Smith, the study’s lead author. “Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.” The discovery of the new population was announced today at the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Maui, Hawaii.
The irrawaddy dolphin. Photo courtesy of WCS.
The study announcing the find, published in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, highlights that despite the discovery of a new population, the Irrawaddy dolphin is still threatened. Bringing this point home was the discovery of two dolphins which had drowned due to entanglement in fishermen's nets during the survey.
Other threats to the Irrawaddy dolphin include declining freshwater due to human use and climate change, which is threatening to raise the sea-level and inundate local freshwater systems. The Ganges River dolphin, which overlaps the same habitat as the Irrawaddy dolphin, is threatened by the same factors.
Freshwater dolphins of Southeast Asia have garnered additional attention since the extinction of the baiji, or Yangzte river dolphin, which disappeared from China's waters in 2006 despite conservation efforts. The baiji went extinct due to a large variety of threats, including dam construction on the river, entanglement in nets, habitat loss, pollution, speedboats, noise pollution, and illegal electrofishing which employs electricity to stun fish.
U.S., Mexico, Canada pledge to save the vaquita from extinction
(10/30/2008) The United States, Mexico, and Canada will work together to conserve the vaquita, the world's smallest, and most endangered, species of cetacean.
The extinction of the baiji a 'wake-up call' to conserve vaquita and other cetaceans
(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."
Rare Chinese river dolphin sighting in doubt
(09/01/2007) A prominent researcher is skeptical of last week's reported sighting of the baiji, the Chinese river dolphin declared extinct earlier this year, according to the New York Times. The sighting near Tongling city in Anhui Province -- widely reported in Chinese and Western media -- was captured on video.
"Extinct" baiji river dolphin spotted alive in China
(08/29/2007) An "extinct" baiji has been spotted alive in the Yangtze River, reports Chinese state media.
The news of extinction: western media's response to the demise of the Baiji
(04/01/2007) The news came and went with an alacrity that I found alarming, almost jolting. I waited for weeks, faithfully; I could not believe that the initial announcement would be followed by nothing but silence on the issue, no rationalizations, no opinions, no discussions, no outpourings of grief. Just silence.