Halda no safe haven for dolphins
A dolphin was found dead in the Halda river in Chattogram on July 21.
Experts suspected the mammal may have died after it got caught in a stray fishnet and suffocated to death.
Just a day before, another dead dolphin, around seven-feet long and weighing 90kg, washed up in the same area.
With this, at least 38 dolphins have been found dead in the river and its canals in the last four years, according to data from Halda River Research Laboratory of Chittagong University.
Researchers identified fishing nets, propellers of mechanised boats, decreasing water levels upstream due to sluice gates and dams, and industrial pollution as some of the main reasons behind the deaths.
"We saw in our first autopsy report that the injuries were caused by a sharp propeller of mechanised boats. We requested authorities to ban mechanised boats in the river."
Dr Manzoorul Kibria, professor of zoology at Chittagong University and a prominent Halda researcher, conducted the first autopsy of a dolphin in 2018.
"We saw in our first autopsy report that the injuries were caused by a sharp propeller of mechanised boats," he said. "We requested authorities to ban mechanised boats in the river."
Meanwhile, experts also said many of the dolphins were killed, but so far only a single case has been filed in this regard in 2020 by the forest department.
Mentionable, the department is in charge of protecting the dolphins.
The killing of dolphins is increasing every day due to a lack of identification of killers and impunity, said Prof Kibria.
Asked, Rafiqul Islam Chowdhury, divisional forest officer of Chattogram Nature and Wildlife Conservation wing of the Forest Department, said, "We are not able to protect dolphins properly, due to a shortage of manpower."
The forest department has undertaken a 10-year-long conservation plan from 2020 to 2030 to protect species that are declared endangered by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) in 2015.
"We are working amid manpower shortage with the authorities concerned, stakeholders and communities to ensure that the plan is being properly followed," the DFO added.
According to experts, the Ganges river dolphin was first discovered in 1801. Named Shushuk in Bangla, it's an endemic aquatic mammal found only in the Indian subcontinent.
With a lifespan of 25 years on average, a dolphin takes nine to 10 years to mature, and it takes around two years for an adult dolphin to birth a calf. This means a dolphin can give birth to around five calves during its reproductive years at maximum.
According to IUCN, the Ganges river dolphin is endangered globally as well as in Bangladesh (IUCN Bangladesh, 2015).
The species is included in the First Schedule of Bangladesh Wildlife (Protection & Security) Act, 2012 to ensure a higher level of protection for their conservation.