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Only 11 Indus dolphins survive in India

New Delhi, May 10: Only five to 11 individual Indus Dolphins, one of the world’s rarest mammals, survive in India, with their habitat confined to 130 km stretch of Beas river in Punjab, reveals the first-ever organised census. Low waterflow due to several blockages like dams and barrage over the Beas, some in Himachal Pradesh where the river emerges, and on its tributaries like river Parvati, pose a challenge to the species.
Native to only in India and Pakistan, the Indus Dolphins in India were found in an only 185 km stretch between Talwara and Harike Barrage in Beas river where they were first spotted in 2007. Later, the government declared this stretch as a protected zone, barring mining and fishing along the river. However, the first-ever census done by Punjab government and WWF India, showed that the population only survives in the last 130 km downstream of the habitat stretch, due to less water in first 55 km of downstream from Harike Barrage. The silver lining is that whatever population survives in India, it is also breeding.
Experts say these aquatic mammals were also found in Sutlej decades back, but river pollution is believed to be a major cause of their extinction from the habitat. “Beas is not polluted, challenge is the water flow fluctuation… It’s concerning that this is the only surviving population in India,” Suresh Babu said. He added that the 55 km upstream does not have much water, which confines the habitat, and that is another challenge to ensure that population can move upstream as well. IUCN suspects the population size of the Indus river dolphins has reduced by more than 50 per cent since 1944. A blind species that communicates through echoes like bats, Indus Dolphins are one of the seven freshwater dolphins found across the world. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita