When I used to be questioned about the presence and status of dolphins in Nepal, I always looked confused about their existence in Nepal. But, getting more news and articles about them, I strengthen my views about their abundances in the fast-flowing rivers of Nepal. Still, the stories about their structure, habitat and existence in Nepal seem to be concealed among many youth and elders.
The Gangetic River Dolphins are considered blind as they lack crystalline eye lens. They usually travel alone or in small groups feeding on small fish, prawn, carps and crabs from the rivers. During hot and dry seasons, if the temperature is too high, they may also disappear from the areas of river systems. They are capable of complex problem solving and are one of the smartest creatures.
The Gangetic River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) had its wide population and habitat in the four major flowing rivers of Nepal; Karnali, Narayani, Koshi and Mahakali river but due to the construction of dams and other riverine projects they are restricted to only three rivers (Karnali, Narayani and Koshi). They are considered as an important indicator of the surroundings of the entire river ecosystem. They have been classified as Endangered in 1996 in the IUCN red list of threatened species for its declining population range.
According to the first Integrated Dolphin Census of Nepal conducted in 2016, a total of 52 dolphins were recorded including 43 which were sighted in Mohana and its tributaries.
Rampant fragmentation in the name of constructing dams and canals, fishing, global warming alteration of natural water flow process, hunting, sand mining, and use of harmful fishing nets are the big threats for the dolphins. Similarly, excessive use of chemical fertilizers in the agricultural farm has been degrading water resources resulting in a long term negative impact to the species. In recent days, due to global warming, the rise in temperature has threatened the dolphin’s population resulting in shrinkage of population. Similarly, spilling of oils in rivers has also been a disaster to many of the dolphins breeding zones causing river pollution.
We all know that dolphins are the pride of rivers. Their skills and movements attract many people but are limited to small habitats. Many people are still unaware of the existence of this magnificent creature. It’s worrying that day by day its population is falling off, and its movement has been limited.
It’s more important than ever to protect and nurture them. So, instead of counting their population and watching them die, we all can protect the beauty of Himalayas joining hands with people around. For this, local people can be involved in the river cleaning campaign, they can be made aware about the impacts of chemical fertilizers in the agricultural land, encouraging them to consume less pesticides as well as fertilizers. Additionally, we can check and be aware about the laws and rules in poaching of these species. And the use of adhesive nets should be banned in the rivers. This can somehow initiate the conservation of dolphins in Nepal.
In my opinion, by doing this we can create a good research background about dolphins and invite researchers to visit these places. We can collect a good amount of revenues and flourish the tourism industry in these places. More cleanliness campaign will also be organized in order to keep the vicinity of rivers clean, which in turn makes the area pristine.