Dolphin population in Harike Wildlife Sanctuary and Beas increasing

The number of Platanista Gangetica minor popularly known as Indus River Dolphins in Harike Wildlife Sanctuary and Beas river is believed to be more than a dozen and growing but they face danger from indiscriminate fishing and pollution.

“With the spotting of six dolphins including breeding population together in recent past we are of view that their number could be more than a dozen” informed District Forest Officer (wildlife) Dr M Sudhagar while talking to TOI on Thursday. Earlier the number of dolphins was believed to be 7 after 4 male and 3 female dolphins were spotted in the river. However Chairperson, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Punjab Gunbir Singh put the number of dolphins to around 30.

A pair of Dolphins were first sighted in 2007 following which a survey was conducted by experts from WWF which led to the sighting of three adults and two calves.

Sudhagar said WWF was carrying out monthly survey and monitoring of dolphins but no proper survey had been carried out to find out their exact number or any conservation plan had been launched so far.

He said in the 75 kilometer stretch of river Beas there were no natural or man made barriers so there was possibility of increase in the number of dolphins which was also confirmed due to spotting of breeding population of dolphins.

Most of the sightings of dolphins were made near village Karmowal and its 2 to 3 kilometer surroundings. He said since the dolphins were also spotted outside sanctuary area in river Beas so there was need to take measures to protect them . He suggested that the stretch of river Beas from Beas town to Harike could be declared as Bio Diversity Heritage Site or declaring dolphins as State Aquatic Animal besides spreading awareness about their existence. “Barring few educated persons hardly anyone knows about presence of dolphins in Punjab” he said.

Gunbir said WWF had completed survey of three rivers including Ravi,Beas and Satluj .”I think their number is around 30 but we don’t have any evidence of existence of dolphins in Ravi or Beas” he said. He informed that WWF was finalizing habitat conservation plan for dolphins which would then be submitted with government for conservation of the rare species of dolphins.

Indus River Dolphin is one of the world’s rarest mammal and most endangered cetaceans. Only about 1000 of this unique species exist today in the lower reaches of the Indus River in Pakistan.Their numbers had dramatically declined since the construction of the irrigation system in the Indus.

Source: Times of India