Sir Peter Scott Fund project: Ganges River Dolphin, Assam

'Protection of Ganges River Dolphins in the Brahmaputra River'

Objectives

  • To gain information on dolphin population and behaviour
  • To suggest appropriate protected areas and management options

Background

A proposal to prospect for oil along the bed of the Brahmaputra River has potentially disastrous implications for the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica). Seismic surveys are known to cause serious disturbance and sometimes physical harm to cetaceans in confined marine environments.

This project aims to provide robust scientific data, including suitable locations to establish protected areas, to inform management decisions for safeguarding this important and vulnerable population.

Project updates

(December 2007) A dolphin conservation workshop was organized in the Kukurmara area of the Kulsi River, which has one of the highest densities of these dolphins.

Altogether 48 people from 35 regions of the Brahmaputra Valley were involved. The participants ranged from government officials, wildlife managers, NGOs, media, local villagers, fishing communities and defence organisations.

The discussions included the status of the Ganges River dolphin in the Brahmaputra River, its threats and community-based conservation measures.

(March - April 2008) The dolphin population status and distribution survey was completed for 248 km (30%) of the Brahmaputra River.

Seventy-two dolphins were sighted from the observation boat in 17 areas of the river, now identified as dolphin ‘hotspots’.

During the survey, the project team conducted 15 awareness campaigns with river communities and other stakeholders along the riverbanks. Each campaign included a talk about the importance of and threats to River Dolphins in the Brahmaputra and leaflets and posters were distributed.

This work sets the scene for future collaborations in designating protected areas for the Ganges River Dolphin and the improvement of the overall management of the area.

(April 2009) The project has now been successfully completed. The comprehensive survey of the Brahmaputra River system revealed an estimated population of 264 Ganges River Dolphins, a number much lower than hoped for, which emphasises the need for urgent conservation action. Full report

Duration: 2007 - 2008
Project leaders: Gill Braulik & Dr. Abdul Wakid
IUCN SSC Specialist Group: Cetaceans
Project donors:
IUCN & Fondation Ensemble