Population of endangered dolphin rises in Orissa’s Chilika Lake

BHUBANESWAR - There’s some good news for wildlife buffs as the population of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Orissa’s Chilika Lake has increased to 146 in 2009 FROM last year’s 138, an official said here Friday.

‘The total population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the world is estimated to be around 900 and in India Chilika lagoon is their principal habitat,’ chief executive of the Chilika Development Authority Sudarshan Panda told IANS.

‘In Chilika Lake as per the annual census of the dolphins conducted Feb 18 the population is 146,’ Panda said, adding that it is the largest population in a lagoon in the world.

‘The increase has been possible due to various conservation measures including close cooperation of the local fishermen community and tourist operators,’ Panda said.

‘The census was carried out by a team of experts with head count as well as by using a system that records the sound of the dolphins,’ he said, adding that the entire lagoon was divided into 20 zones.

The number of dolphins recorded in 2006 was 131 and 135 in 2007, he said.

The Chilika Lake, about 100 km from here, is spread over Puri, Khordha and Ganjam districts of the state and is home to the largest congregation of migratory birds in the country.

It was declared one of the six wetlands of international importance at the Ramsar Convention on Migratory Species of Arctic and Central Asian Waterfowl.

Irrawaddy dolphins were first recorded in this lake in 1915. But their numbers, movements between coastal and lagoon waters, and mortality rates have remained undocumented.

Although dolphins in Chilika are not hunted for their meat, mechanised fishing trawlers and tourist boats with large propellers often affect the mammals.

Apart from Chilika, Irrawaddy dolphins are also found in the Songkhla Lake in Thailand. While it is difficult to spot them in Thailand, the dolphins can be easily sighted in Orissa.

Adult Irrawaddy dolphins range in length from two metres to 2.75 metres and are thought to reach sexual maturity at the age of three or four years. Adult females probably have only one calf every two to three years, officials said.


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