Animal Scene - - PET BULLETIN -

Braulik used a sec­ond grant in 2011 to teach Pak­istani sci­en­tists to take over her re­search on a blind dol­phin species that lives only in the In­dus River. Sci­en­tists knew that the dol­phins’ num­bers had de­clined since the 1870s, when their range stretched from the Hi­malayas to the In­dian Ocean, 2,000 miles down­stream. Now they are split into six pop­u­la­tions by dams and lim­ited to 20 per­cent of their for­mer habi­tat, mak­ing it tough to keep track of them. These an­i­mals, which can see only light and dark, went blind over the gen­er­a­tions be­cause vi­sion was not needed in the river’s muddy depths. They have long snouts, pin­hole eyes and thin, spiky teeth. Or­ga­niz­ers of the Asian Games re­jected a re­quest by con­ser­va­tion­ists to use a sim­i­lar, now-ex­tinct South Asian river dol­phin as its mas­cot, be­cause the dol­phin was so un­ap­peal­ing. Braulik ac­knowl­edges that these dol­phins look dif­fer­ent from the cam­er­aready ones at Seaworld. But “they are the coolest crea­tures,” she said. Braulik had twice led ex­pe­di­tions for Pak­istani re­searchers down the In­dus in wooden row­boats to count the dol­phins. For a third trip, in 2011, a $6,000 aquar­ium grant al­lowed her to train the lo­cal re­searchers in com­plex sur­vey meth­ods and anal­y­sis. Now, two groups of lo­cal sci­en­tists have led the work. “They re­ally don’t need me any­more,” she said.

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