According to the latest census report prepared by the Madhya Pradesh forest department, the number of dolphins in Chambal river has been reduced by 13% in 4 years.
There are just 68 dolphins left in the 435-kilometre-long Chambal river sanctuary which passes through three states i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Gangetic Dolphins are the sanctuary’s main attraction.
The decreasing trend is continuing from 2016 when there were 78 dolphins.
The maximum carrying capacity of dolphins in Chambal is 125.
The carrying capacity of an environment is the maximum population size of a biological species that can be sustained in that specific environment, given the food, habitat, water, and other resources available.
The dolphins were spotted for the first time in 1985 in Chambal river (a tributary of Yamuna) near Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. That time, the number was more than 110.
Unfavourable Habitat: It faces the threat of hunting and entanglement in fishing gear due to fragmented habitats.
Poaching: Fragmented habitats lead to the problem of poaching for not only dolphins, but also for gharials.
Illegal Sand Mining: It is rampant in Bhind and Morena in MP and Dholpur in Rajasthan and putting the whole ecosystem of the river in danger.
Further, the forest team never gets support from locals.
In 2006, the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) ordered a ban on mining in the sanctuary area to save the flora and fauna of the river.
Consumption of Water: Chambal is a lifeline for three states i.e. MP, UP and Rajasthan and the locals are withdrawing water daily.
It has led to gradual decrease in the water levels and needs to be addressed properly to save the dolphins as well as gharial.
Lack of Studies: Dolphins are a sensitive animal. There is a need of study on their favourable environment and communication system.
The Forest Department of MP has collaborated with the scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to do a research for safeguarding and increasing the population of dolphins in Chambal.
Scientific Name:Platanista gangetica
It is a highly intelligent freshwater mammal placed into the infraorder Cetacea.
It is India's national aquatic animal and is popularly known as ‘Susu’
Habitat: It is found in parts of the Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
It requires at least 3 metre depth and 266.42-289.67 m3 per sec flow of water for sustainable habitat.
It is among the four freshwater dolphins in the world. The other three are:
The ‘Baiji’ now likely extinct from the Yangtze River in China,
The ‘Bhulan’ of the Indus in Pakistan, and
The ‘Boto’ of the Amazon River in Latin America.
These four species live only in rivers and lakes.
Characteristics: It has rudimentary eyes and uses echolocation (through ultrasonic sound) to navigate and hunt.