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Ganges River Dolphin

IN MEMORY OF THE YANGTZE RIVER DOLPHIN: To commemorate the world’s loss of the Baiji or Yangtze River dolphin—believed to be functionally extinct—today’s Endangered All-Star is another freshwater dolphin in great peril: The Ganges River dolphin. The blind creature plies the waters of the some of the most heavily used and polluted rivers in Asia, approaching extinction as dams and other obstructions are built, threatened by dumping of raw sewage, pesticides, and fertilizers; poor fishing practices; and deforestation which leads to heavy siltation of rivers. Sadly, dolphins are caught and used as bait for catfish, and animals are poached for meat and oil. Like the now-lost Chinese species, this dolphin suffers from a low profile: Public awareness and concern remain minimal. WWF-India has launched a conservation action plan designed to minimize threats by 2012, and WWF-Nepal remains deeply concerned about the species, having conducted a 2006 survey that revealed fewer than 100 animals in Nepal. 20 of those were found in the Karnali River, and I was fortunate to see one of them that same year, surfacing and blowing, making the sound that has given the dolphin the nickname, “susu.” It was a bittersweet moment, however, to think that it may have been among the last of its kind. Nearby, people were bathing and throwing nets in the river, and the guide I was with rebuked two men illegally fishing from a boat within the confines of Bardia National Park. Photo: Francois Xavier Pelletier
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