Last update 1/19/2012 9:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Irrawaddy dolphins – the new hope for the “Mekong river’s soul”

VietNamNet Bridge – Following the information about the skull of Irrawaddy dolphin caught by local fishermen, in September 2011, a research team from the Biodiversity and Development of the Institute of Tropical Biology detected and recorded the images of a population of f Irrawaddy dolphins in the waters area around the Ba Lua islands of the Kien Giang biosphere Reserve. The discovery has raised a new hope for the rare marine mammal, which is called the "soul of the Mekong".
Rare dolphins discovered in Kien Giang

Following the dolphins’ tracks

Irrawaddy dolphins discontinuously live in tropical and subtropical areas between Indian Ocean and the Pacific, largely concentrated in the estuaries and fresh waters areas. Due to the discontinuous situation, the status of this species has not been investigated and fully evaluated. In Vietnam, this species of animal has a “strange fate.”

The article by Vu Long, an expert in animals published on Saigon Tiep thi says that the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN lists Irrawaddy dolphin as “vulnerable” animal. However, as for different populations of the dolphins, the threat level is very high.

The number of Irrawaddy dolphin individuals in the Malampaya strait area is 77, while there are 114-152 individuals on the Mekong valley, and there are 58-79 individuals on Mahakam, and 58-72 individuals on Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar.

Since the relationship between evolution and genetics of the populations mentioned above has not been studied, while the number of individuals of each population is on the decrease, the IUCN’s red list has listed the species as “Critically Endangered.”

Irrawaddy dolphins were first found in the Kien Giang biosphere reserve's biodiversity center and development (CBD) in June of 2010. At that time, the center's research team in conjunction with the University of Natural Sciences in HCM City was conducting a biodiversity survey on the Ba Lua archipelago.

The main target of the research team was the flora and fauna on the islands. However, in the talks with local residents, the experts paid attention to the attention about the existence of a marine mammal. Finally, the researchers collected the skull of a marine mammal on the Hon Da Bac Island.

The skull has been later recognized as the skull of an Irrawaddy dolphin, which died because it fell into a net of local fishermen.

The discovery prompted the scientists to make further investigations to learn more about the mammal. However, only on September 9, 2011, the researchers discovered and recorded the images of a herd of 20 dolphins on the area between the Hong Chuong and Hon Re Lon islands.

Living beyond the laws

The information collected from the interview with local residents shows that the dolphins are relatively popular, which live on the Ba Lua archipelago and Kien Luong bay. There are about 40 individuals at least.

In Vietnam, there is limited information about the marine mammal. Dao Tan Ho, a scientist, and his associates once reported the death of an individual of the species which died because of the fishing nets on the Tien River in 2002. Meanwhile, the Red Book of Vietnam does not mention Irrawaddy dolphin due to the lack of the information about the status of the dolphins and the location.

The government decree No 32 on the species of animals that people must not hunt, also does not mention the species.

Since this dolphin has not been mentioned in any legal document, in principle, the rare animal has not been officially protected in Vietnam.

CBD’s scientists are now joining forces with some international and domestic organizations to build up suitable conservation programs for the rare dolphin population.

Source: SGTT