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Ganges and Indus Dolphin: Platanistidae - Conservation Status

dolphins river smithsonian society

River dolphins are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction. There may be fewer than one thousand individuals remaining in the Indus River, while the outlook is equally grim in other river systems, including the Ganges River.

River dolphins are threatened mainly by human development. Dam building, begun in the 1920s, still continues today. Not only do dams isolate groups of dolphins, they interfere with migration and water flow. Heavy fishing, reducing water flow, and preventing flooding all decrease the population of fish that are the main source of food for these animals. In addition, pollution puts a strain on their health and may shorten their lives. Hunting and "accidental intentional" killing of dolphins in fishnets also are threats to their survival.

To combat the decline in population, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society recommends establishing protected habitats, training local people to manage river dolphins as a protected resource, educating the public to substitute other oils for dolphin oil, and enforcing protection laws already in existence.



Carwadine, Mark, and Martin Camm. Smithsonian Handbooks: Whales Dolphins and Porpoises. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.

Gowell, Elizabeth T. Whales and Dolphins: What They Have in Common. New York: Franklin Watts, 2000.

Mead, James G., and Joy P. Gold. Whales and Dolphins in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Smith, Alison M., and Brian D. Smith. "Review Status and Threats to River Dolphins and Recommendations for Their Conservation." In Environmental Reviews. Vol 6, edited by T. C. Hutchinson. Ottawa, Canada: NRC Research Press, 1998, 189-206.

Web sites:

American Cetacean Society. http://www.acsonline.org (accessed on July 8, 2004).

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. http://www.wdcs.org (accessed on July 8, 2004).

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about 10 years ago

Just want to share that I had the auspicious honor of seeing one of these graceful creatures in the Ganges at Varanasi in December of 2000. It surfaced twice and looked like a big, grey eel. I did not see a dorsal fin. The sun was about to rise, many holy people were singing and chanting. It was an incredibly moving experience. Everything must be done to save these wonderful animals.