Three teams to count endangered Gangetic dolphins in Bihar
Three teams of experts and scientists will begin on November 18 a comprehensive drive to enumerate the endangered Gangetic dolphins along nearly 1,000km of the Ganges River and its two major tributaries - Gandak and Ghaghra - in Bihar.
Scientists expect to find out the exact number of these dolphins by the middle of December after the completion of the first such comprehensive census, officials said.
The survey will help authorities formulate conservation policies and make sure the dolphins’ number doesn’t dwindle.
“The census of the endangered dolphins will be completed on December 10. A summary report will be submitted to the government in March next year,” Gopal Sharma, senior scientist at the Zoological Survey of India, said in Patna.
Sharma will lead one of the teams.
The other two groups will be led by Sameer Kumar Sinha of the Wildlife Trust of India, and Sunil Choudhary, co-ordinator of Vikramshila Biodiversity Research and Education Centre (VBREC), Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University.
Sharma told IANS that this would be the first time that a survey is being conducted simultaneously in the Ganges and its two major tributaries.
This is also the first time that a co-ordinated exercise will be made for the dolphin population assessment.
According to him, the three teams will begin the survey in their respective zones on the same day to minimise the possibility of duplication in the count.
“I will carry out the survey from Chausa in Buxar district to Mokama in Patna, a stretch of about 300km in the Ganga, to count the number of dolphins there during 22 days,” Sharma said.
Sinha will carry out the survey in Ghaghra and Gandak along a 400km stretch, while Choudhary will conduct the assessment from Mokama to Manihari, a stretch of about 300km.
Bihar is home to around half of the estimated 3,000 dolphin population in the country.
The last survey of the dolphins was conducted in a limited stretch in 2012 in Bihar and nearly 1,500 dolphins were counted then.
The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur district is India’s only such sanctuary, spread over 50km along the Ganges.
“Unlike in the past, this time a full survey on a large scale will help count the exact number of dolphins,” Sinha said.
He said that the survey will help the government take measures for conservation of the dolphins.
R K Sinha, an expert on Gangetic river dolphins, said that the habitat of the endangered dolphins has been changing due to climate change, threatening their survival.
Change in their habitat has resulted in a decrease in their population.
“Climate change has impacted the habitat of Gangetic river dolphins. It is visible in the river Ganga and its tributaries. Water levels and the flow (current) have been decreasing, a bad omen for the dolphins,” Sinha said.
Sinha, known as the ‘Dolphin Man’, said that several habitats of the Gangetic river dolphins have shrunk in the past few decades, and many more will follow in coming years due to climate change.
“Rising temperature and erratic rainfall are leading to a fast decline in river flow that is bound to hit dolphins,” he added.
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