The dolphins are threatened by fatal entanglements in fishing gear, depletion of their prey from the enormous by-catch of fish and crustaceans in fine-mesh "mosquito" nets used to catch fry for shrimp farming, and increasing salinity and sedimentation caused by sea-level rise and changes in the availability of upstream freshwater flow.
News of the declared sanctuaries is particularly welcome considering the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin whose last confirmed sighting was in 2002. Fatal entanglement in nets and habitat degradation killed off this species after having survived in the Yangtze River of China for more than 10 million years.
Freshwater dolphins are among the most threatened wildlife on earth because their habitat is highly impacted by human activities, including dam construction and unsustainable fisheries. In addition to conserving globally important populations of freshwater dolphins, the new wildlife sanctuaries in the Sundarbans will provide protection for other threatened aquatic wildlife including the river terrapin, masked finfoot, and small-clawed otter.
Bangladesh has been recognized as a "hotspot" for cetaceans, the scientific grouping of dolphins, whales, and porpoises. In April 2009, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced the discovery of the world's largest population of nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the country. A portion of this population shares habitat with the endangered Ganges River dolphin, whose range extends all the way upstream to the shadow of the Himalayas in Nepal.
Starting on February 18, 2012, WCS, through its Bangladesh Cetacea
|Contact: Stephen Sautner|
Wildlife Conservation Society