The Indus River dolphin, a subspecies of the South Asian River Dolphin once lived along 3,400 km (2,100 mi) of the Indus and its tributaries. Unfortunately, its range has contracted by about 80 percent since 1870 and is now limited to the lower reaches of the Indus in Sindh, between the Jinnah and Kotri barrages.
Decades of water pollution, poaching, habitat fragmentation due to barrages, has dwindled their population to around 2000. Their counterpart – the Ganges River Dolphin – hasn’t fared much better either as only about 3,500 remain. A 2017 population assessment estimated their number at only 5,000 for the species as a whole. Listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the South Asian River Dolphin’s population has declined by more than 50 percent since the 1940s.
World Wildlife Fund Pakistan (WWFP) has been using community based conservation approaches to protect the endangered dolphins, locally known as bhulan. Officials work with local fishing communities on river banks to raise door-to-door awareness by offering advice on dolphin-friendly nets and warning against harmful and illegal poison-fishing.
“We had to explain that it was a unique species only found in the Indus and nowhere else,” Abdul Jabbar told AFP. Jabbar gave up fishing for a job on the dolphin rescue team, patrolling the banks of the Dadu Canal on a motorbike.
The World Wide Fund for Nature also offered one million rupees in loans to help fishermen diversify their livelihood options.
With the help of the Sindh wildlife department, they established a dolphin monitoring network of 100 volunteers and staff, and a 24-hour phone helpline for villagers to call if they see a trapped dolphin.
The most recent WWF from 2017 showed their numbers had rebounded to about 1,800, up from 132 in 1972, and wildlife officials expect the population to further increase.
Wildlife department official Adnan Hamid Khan told AFP that the recent steady rise in dolphins had been a “success story”.
“But with a larger population comes food shortages, decreased range of movement — their breeding ground and territory has shrunk.”
Indus River dolphins first came under threat during British colonial rule when dams were built to control the waterway’s flow, and later from the discharge of hazardous chemicals when factories sprung up along its banks.
Untreated sewage from rapidly expanding cities and towns is also dumped into the water, Khan said.
But with fishermen on their side, there is some hope for the species.
“Now we save the dolphins with as much dedication as we would a human being,” said Ghulam Akbar, another volunteer monitor who also turned to farm fishing in an attempt to limit his impact on the river.
“They breathe like we humans do. Every compassionate man should save them.”
From : pk.mashable.com