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The ill-fated Ganges River Dolphin

May 22, 2010

When I wrote earlier this year about the Ganges River dolphin being declared India’s National Aquatic Animal I was hopeful that the strategy to create higher profile for the animals would secure their conservation.

Now I have to question if such a declaration was a blessing or a curse.

Recently, four Ganges dolphins were killed by suspected poachers on the banks of the Ganga in Bihar. An autopsy revealed that the dolphins were trapped and beaten to death.

At the time of the discovery, locals claimed that dolphin deaths signified dangerous levels of pollution in Ganges River. Are we then to surmise that the deaths were a desperate stunt to attract Government attention to the state of the Ganges River; on which dolphins and human both depend? Or, were the statements an attempt to provide cover for something wholly different?

A few weeks ago, R.K. Sinha, an expert on Ganga dolphins, raised alarm again. In an interview with IANS, Sinha said “It is an alarming situation that poachers continue to kill dolphins for their flesh and oil.” Sinha went on to say it was shocking that killings of dolphins continue even after the Ganges River Dolphin National Aquatic Animal declaration. “It stunned me that such a large number of dolphins were killed by poachers right under the nose of the government,” he said.

Nicola Hodgins, with WDCS has also provide some information in this debate, pointing out that “legislation without enforcement is always going to be a bit of a dead end, what is needed is for the authorities to take meaningful action and to ensure an end to the killing of these endangered dolphins for their oil“.

It is still unclear just what is happening and how many of these incidents are linked together. The Government estimates indicate that as few as 2000 animals remain.

From this distance it is difficult to say just what is really happening, but it is desperately sad. And in this case, the politics is simply not lining up.

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