Endangered dolphin spottedA team of researchers were treated with a rare sighting of a critically endangered Gangetic river dolphin in the Narayani river on Monday morning.
An adult dolphin was spotted at Bhajauli area near Nawalparasi and Chitwan districts by a team of researchers led by Shambhu Paudel, assistant professor at Kathmandu Forestry College, two decades after its species was last seen by researcher Brian D Smith.
“We could not get the picture of the dolphin, but we did manage to make a short video featuring the mammal’s movements for a couple of seconds,” said Paudel.
The site where the dolphin was found was far off from human civilisation, which explains why it was there, Paudel said. “Far from human disturbance and fishing activities, which means abundant supply of food.”
A research conducted by a senior naturalist, Tej Kumar Shrestha, in 1986 had reported that there were five Gangetic dolphins in Narayani. The latest spotting of the dolphin is a great news for researchers and conservationists alike, particularly at a time when the other two river systems—Koshi and Karnali—said to be the habitats for river dolphins in the country have witnessed an alarming decline of their species.
Three decades ago, Gangetic river dolphins were also found in Mahakali river, but their already waning population faced annihilation due to intensive human activities and habitat disturbance by dam constructions, pollution and over fishing.
Smith, who last spotted the Ganges dolphin also known as blind dolphin in 1993, had reported in his follow-up trips to Narayani in 1994 and 1995 that he did not see any dolphin. No formal sightings of Gangetic river dolphins were reported in Narayani ever since.
In 2000, researchers duo Shanta Raj Jnwali and Ukesh Raj Bhuju had concluded that that Karnali and Koshi were the only rivers in the country harbouring river dolphins. The sighting of blind dolphin in Narayani has disproved the conclusion.
Paudel’s research study conducted in 2011 on ‘Factor assessment of the Ganges River Dolphin, Platanista gangetica, movement in the Karnali River System of Nepal’ had found that every year the population distribution of Gangetic dolphins, and its range has been declining by 0.495 and 1.165 km since 1982 in Karnali river, one of the prime habitats of these species.
During the research period performed in two phases during winter in 2011, a maximum of four individual dolphins were recorded as dominantly resident populations along the mainstream Karnali, while no sightings were recorded in the river’s feeder system, Mohana and Geruwa.
The study had concluded that if the present rate of Dolphins disappearance continues, either the dolphins will face complete extinction or move into neighbouring Indian River system.