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Honoring the Susu: the elusive Ganges River dolphin

March 24, 2010

I’ve noticed quite a few visits coming to this blog and reading an entry I wrote in January about the Ganges River dolphin. So, anticipating that there are few people out there who are as fond as I am of this shy and elusive dolphin, I thought I’d give you a quick round-up about what I know about them, and who is working to save them.

Ganges River dolphin, Platanista gangetica gangetica

A little about them: Ganges River dolphins, or susu, are found in the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra river systems of Western India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh and the Karnaphuli River, Bangladesh. There distribution ranges from the foothills of the Himalayas to the limits of the tidal zone in the Bay of Bengal, but individuals animals do not migrate this entire journey.

During the dry season, when the river levels are low, the adults tend to stay in the main river channels. During the monsoon season, they move into creeks and tributaries. They prefer deeper water, but can be seen in water as shallow as a metre.

Susu are most often found alone or in pairs, occasionally in small groups, but little else is known about their behaviour as they tend to be elusive, fast moving and shy of boats. These dolphins sometimes gather in counter-current pools near channel convergences, sharp meanders and human-built structures that cause similar effects. These features probably help to concentrate their prey.

The threats the face: With such a restricted range, susu face the full gamit of threats from habitat loss (dam building and dredging), prey depletion, chemical pollution, hunting, entanglement in fishing nets, noise pollution, boat traffic.

Gaining accurate population data is difficult for this species but it is clear that numbers are small and that their range is greatly reduced. Only 2000 individuals are thought to survive in the Ganges and associated rivers.

Working for their protection: The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have all historically worked on Susu protection.

Currently WWF is working of habitat protection in a number area across India and Nepal, and on their Dams Initiative, which works to ensure that the benefits provided by dams are not overtaken by negative environmental and social impacts.

WCS is working with the government of Bangladesh to establish a protected area network for whales, dolphin and porpoises as a conservation hedge against the impacts of global climate change, declining freshwater supplies, and unsustainable fisheries.

WDCS is pursuing a regional agreement for cetaceans in the Indian Ocean that would also benefit to Ganges River Dolphin by increase cooperation between Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India

Status: IUCN: Endangered. Listed on CMS Appendix: I and II

More information that I trust:

I know that each of these organizations also works directly with local groups, communities and individuals.

I’d love to hear what is drawing you to this dolphin.

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