Mekong River dolphin population increases for first time

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Phnom Penh, April 23 (IANS) The population of dolphins in Cambodia’s Mekong river has increased for the first time after years of constant decline that has pushed the threatened species to the brink of extinction, activists said on Monday.

A new census by the Cambodian government and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has pegged the number of these dolphins at 92, 12 more than a study published in 2015, reports Efe news.

This is the first increase in the number of the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) since the first census was published in 1997, when their population was 200, according to a WWF statement.

“Effective river patrolling by teams of river guards and the strict confiscation of illegal gill-nets, which accidentally trap and drown dolphins, are the main reasons for this historic increase,” the statement said.

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WWF head in Cambodia, Seng Teak, said that after years of hard work they finally have reasons to believe that this dolphin can be protected from extinction.

The WWF official underlined the cooperation with the authorities, tourism industry and local communities.

The census also revealed an improvement in the survival ratio of the species until adulthood, an increase in the number of offspring – 32 in the last three years – and decrease in deaths (two in the last year compared to nine in 2015).

Seng Teak said that the dolphin was an indicator of the Mekong’s health and the rise in numbers was a sign of hope for the river.

–IANS

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