Punjab government along World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India are conducting first organised census of Indus Dolphins, one of the world’s rarest mammals found only in India and Pakistan. The organised census aims at conservation of the species.
The first organised census will be conducted over period of five days in 185 km stretch between Talwara and Harike Barrage in Beas River in Punjab were riverine fresh water Indus Dolphins are confined. It will be conducted two joint teams of Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab and WWF-India. Its main objective is to establish accurate population of dolphins in order to plan conservation of species.
Indus Dolphin is subspecies of freshwater river dolphin (which also includes Ganges River dolphin) found in Indus river (and its Beas and Sutlej tributaries) flowing through India and Pakistan. It is national mammal of Pakistan. It is a key indicator species of river’s health. Its presence is considered as river is healthy. Indus dolphin like Ganges River dolphin is functionally blind and relies on echolocation to navigate, communicate and hunt prey in muddy river water.
Only 1,816 Indus dolphins are reported to exist presently in lower parts of Indus River. They are patchily distributed in five small, sub-populations that are separated by irrigation barrages across course of Indus river and its tributaries. Their numbers have declined dramatically after construction of irrigation system. It listed by the IUCN as endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species. Indus Dolphin was also found in Sutlej decades back, but river pollution has caused its extinction in river.