Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Project Dolphin


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gangetic Dolphin

Mains level : Project Dolphin

The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by PM Modi, met for the first time at Kanpur to discuss various issues.

Project Dolphin

  • The proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin was one of the agendas discussed.
  • There is an expectation that at the meeting a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” will be cleared to enhance the population of these dolphins.

About Gangetic Dolphins

  • The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves.
  • These dolphins prefer deep waters and, as per WWF, they are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.

Protection status

  • The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, a/c to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
  • They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
  • In 2009, the Gangetic dolphins were declared India’s National Aquatic animal during the first meeting of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
  • It is placed under the “endangered” category by the IUCN.
  • Additionally, the Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting.
  • They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.

In numbers

  • According to the MoEFCC, at last count, the rivers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh had 962 and 1,275 Gangetic dolphins, respectively.
  • According to the ministry, in Assam, the assessment was carried out in three rivers, with the Brahmaputra accounting for 877 of the 962 dolphins in the state.
  • In addition to the species being India’s national aquatic animal, the Gangetic dolphin has been notified by the Assam government as the state aquatic animal, too.
  • Silting and sand lifting from rivers in Assam has been stopped to maintain its population.
  • As per WWF estimates, they number somewhere between 1200-1800.

What are some of the efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?

  • Some of the efforts made to preserve and increase the numbers of these dolphins include the setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020).
  • This plan has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.
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