Ten new calves discovered in 2016
Hope remains for the Irrawaddy dolphin with the discovery of 10 new calves in Cambodia’s section of the Mekong River. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia), 10 new calves were spotted in 2016: Seven in Kratie province and three in Stung Treng province. The Mekong population inhabits a 118-mile stretch of the river between Cambodia and Laos.
While the discovery sparks a glimmer of hope for the critically endangered species, conservationists warn that pressure remains from fishing and habitat destruction, especially from the dam-building boom on the Mekong. In addition, the bodies of six dolphins were discovered during the year
While the discovery is encouraging, WWF-Cambodia Country Director Chhith Sam Ath said they still need protection. “WWF-Cambodia will continue to address the challenges of Mekong dolphin conservation with renewed hope and energy,” he said.
Although the Cambodia population may be making a comeback, the WWF claims it to be functionally extinct in Laos, where gill nets are legal. In December, villagers near the Cheuteal transboundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province discovered only three dolphins remained in the pool. Eight lived in the area in 2010.
Irrawaddy dolphins reside in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, but are only found in three fresh-water rivers: The Ayeyarwady in Myanmar, the Mahakam in Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong. Also known as the Mekong River dolphin, the population is estimated to number around 80.