A census carried out by the Forest and Environment Department of the Odisha Government pointed out to 181 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the state. The census was carried out on 20 January 2017.
In addition, there were 34 humpback dolphins, 31 bottlenose dolphins and five pantropical spotted dolphins were also sighted. The number marks a significant drop from 2015, when survey teams recorded 450 dolphins in the state.
The dolphin census in Odisha in 2016 was suspended because of lack of visibility due to cloudy weather, high wind speed and surging waves. However, the survey was conducted in the year 2017 by the government officials and wildlife enthusiasts.
About Irrawaddy dolphins
• The Irrawaddy dolphin is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin.
• It is found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.
• The species has established subpopulations in freshwater rivers, including the Ganges and the Mekong, as well as the Irrawaddy River from which it takes its name.
• These dolphins have a bulging forehead, short beak, and 12 to 19 teeth on each side of both jaws.
• Genetically, the species is closely related to the killer whale. It is also closely related to the Australian snubfin dolphin.
• One of the earliest recorded descriptions of the Irrawaddy dolphin was by Sir Richard Owen in 1866. The description was based on a specimen found in 1852 in the harbour of Visakhapatnam on the east coast of India.
• Estimated worldwide population of these dolphins appears to be over 7000, with over 90 per cent occurring in Bangladesh. Their population outside Bangladesh and India are classified as critically endangered.
• The conservation status of the Irrawaddy dolphin is vulnerable, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).