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Bihar’s stretch of Ganga to be patrolled for Dolphin Conservation

Following reports of local fishermen netting small fish in the inhabitation expanses of the Dolphins, thus endangering their food supply, it has been ordered by the State Forest Department to patrol the Ganges river along its length in Bihar, to prevent illicit fishing and help the endangered species of Gangetic River Dolphins thrive. Reports of fishermen in Vaishali and Saran catching small fish surfaced, prompting the bold step. These small fish are the main food of these dolphins.

“We have ordered the divisional forest officers in Vaishali and Saran to conduct regular patrolling on the Ganga and initiate tough action against those involved in these acts,” Bihar’s Additional Principal Chief Conservator of forests (wildlife) Rakesh Kumar stated.

Fishing threatens the food supply of the struggling species. Thus it has been ordered to the relevant authorities and designated officials that trespassers be prosecuted by duly lodging cases against them and confiscating their nets if found to be of small size. Filing of official complaints and the threat of legal actions is likely to serve as a deterrent to these fishermen. The patrolling will go hand-in-hand with an extensive awareness campaign to educate fishermen about sustainable fishing practices and integral environment management in their respective areas. Many fishermen caught in the act claimed to be unaware of the regulation or their usage of small nets trapping small fishes. If tiny fishes suffer a population decline, bigger fishes start to die out too and subsequently the entire food chain crumbles. This collapse can be prevented by sparing ample relaxation time to the population to replenish and striking a balance across fishing populations.

A recent holistic census conducted on the species registered 1150 dolphins along with a total of a near 1000-kilometre stretch of the Ganges and two of its tributaries namely, Gandak and Ghaghara, conducted through visual surveying via boat trips. The data alluded to a positive and sharp proliferation of the once habitat-shrunk animal, confined to a mere few areas in critical numbers.

Conservation efforts caught up in wake of the declaration of the animal as the National Aquatic Animal in 2009. Nitish Kumar had moved the proposal prompting the move.

The Ganga Dolphin is a subspecies of the South Asia River Dolphin, a sibling of the Indus River Dolphin and a distant cousin to the extinct Chinese River Dolphin and various South American River Dolphins. It is currently classified as an endangered species under the IUCN Wildlife Conservation status categorization.

Plataniste or Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangética), Karnaphuli river, Bangladesh

Also known as the Blind River Dolphin and the Side-Swimming Dolphin and locally colloquially as the Susu Dolphin, the species has a characteristic long pointed nose and is practically blind with rudimentary eyes, hunting in the murky waters using sound (echolocation) produced by it that gets reflected off the tiny prey.

On 20 May 2013 India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests bestowed upon these endemic denizens a ‘non-human personhood’, and thus its captivity for entertainment purposes is prohibited by law and penalise. Its captivation towards other ends warrants due to prior legal permits. The River Dolphin is a hallmark species of the Indo-Gangetic River System.

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Quote of the day-“We May Encounter Many Defeats But We Must Not Be Defeated.” – Maya Angelou

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