Thousands of rare Irrawaddy dolphins discovered in Bangladesh


Thousands of Irrawaddy dolphins, one of the world’s rarest species of freshwater dolphins, have been found on the Bangladesh coast, conservationists said Wednesday.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said they have found almost 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the country’s Sundarbans mangrove forests and nearby waters of the Bay of Bengal.

“This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins,” said WCS researcher Brian D. Smith, who led the study. “Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.”

Prior to this discovery, only small populations of Irrawaddy dolphins were known to exist, numbering only in the hundreds.

Some of the threats affecting the creatures are man-made. The building of dams has reduced the flow of fresh water in several parts of Bangladesh. The dolphins’ population is also declining because they sometimes get caught in fishermen’s nets.

The Irrawaddy dolphin grows to up to 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length and lives in large rivers, estuaries, and freshwater lagoons in south and south-east Asia.

Conservationists are now coordinating with the Bangladesh government to create a sanctuary for the dolphins.