Irrawaddy dolphins red listed

Photo courtesy of WWF Cambodia

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 07 December 2017 | 06:52 ICT

Cambodia’s beloved Irrawaddy dolphins are facing troubled waters, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) yesterday flagging the riverine mammal as ‘critically endangered’ in an update to its ‘Red List’.

The dolphins are often caught in gillnets, which cast broad tangles of net that create the greatest threat to the freshwater mammals, according to the IUCN release. Overfishing of the dolphins’ food sources and habitat destruction have also led to a 50 percent drop in population in the past 60 years, the release said. Randall Reeves, chair of the IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group, said in an IUCN release that the dolphin is a major tourism draw along the Mekong River, especially in Cambodia.

“While the protected status of the species means that deliberate hunting or capture is rare or non-existent, protection from entanglement and other threats is either lacking entirely or largely ineffective,” Reeves said. Youk Senglong, deputy executive director for the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), yesterday acknowledged illegal fishing as a contributing factor to the dolphins’ decline, but he pointed to hydropower dams upstream on the Mekong as the most serious source of trauma.

“Now the Irrawaddy is really in danger, and there should be prompt and effective intervention from the government and other relevant stakeholders, such as development partners, to conserve it,” he said in an email.

Posted on: December 6, 2017 8:38 pm

Mother and baby Irrawaddy dolphins found dead in Kratie

A newborn baby Irrawaddy dolphin swims in the Mekong River in Kratie province in June. WWF-Cambodia

Niem Chheng, The Phnom Penh Post
Mon, 1 August 2016

A female Irrawaddy dolphin and its baby were found dead yesterday morning in Kratie province’s Chet Borei district, though the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the cause of death is still unknown.

Un Chakrey, an official at WWF, said the mother dolphin and its baby were found side by side in the river near the district’s Bos Leav commune.

“We do not know the cause of death. It could have been a natural death during childbirth,” Chakrey said, though he did not rule out the possibility that the dolphins had been killed.

“They could have been trapped in the net of local fishers.”

Although Irrawaddy dolphins are not purposefully exploited, they are often killed accidentally by fishermen who string nets illegally in the protected waters where they live.

The mother dolphin was 120 kilograms and 220 centimetres long. Her baby was just 1 kilogram and 44 centimetres long. Chakrey said the bodies will be frozen for further investigation.

This is the fifth Irrawaddy dolphin death this year. The WWF estimates that there are only about 80 left in the Mekong.

Posted on: July 31, 2016 9:06 pm

Kratie welcomes baby Irrawaddy dolphin

A newborn baby Irrawaddy dolphin swims in the Mekong River in Kratie province last month. WWF-Cambodia

Jack Davies, The Phnom Penh Post
Tue, 5 July 2016

Cambodia’s dwindling population of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins has increased by one.

World Wildlife Fund Cambodia spokesman Un Chakrey yesterday said a newborn dolphin calf, probably only a little more than a week old, was spotted on June 6 in Kampi pool, located in the Mekong River about 15 kilometres north of Kratie town.

The pool is home to about 20 of the last remaining 80 Irrawaddy river dolphins in Cambodia. Irrawaddy river dolphins give birth only once every two to three years.

The WWF believes damming projects – particularly Laos’s Don Sahong dam, which sits on the Mekong just 2 kilometres from the Cambodian border, pose a particular threat to the species.

Posted on: July 4, 2016 10:11 pm