The freshwater Indus Dolphin has been added to the endangered species list in Punjab, India. Punjab is a large state in northwestern India. Almost 1,800 miles long, the Indus River rises in western Tibet. It flows through the Punjab and Pakistan before reaching the Arabian Sea near Karachi.
The dolphin was named the state aquatic animal of Punjab in 2019. Authorities hope this new level of protection will boost the animal’s chances of survival.
According to the Tribune. of India the dolphins were thought to be a subspecies of the Ganges dolphin. However, scientists studying them realized they were a separate species in 2021. They were believed to be extinct. However, a population was rediscovered in 2007. . The current estimate is seven to nine individuals.
Placing them on the endangered species list means that both the dolphins and their environment will receive a new level of protection.
Punjab’ s chief conservator of forests told the Tribune:
“Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) RK Mishra said, “The small number of dolphin population makes it even more important to protect and conserve the species. Its inclusion in the Schedule I has given legal protection to conservation efforts.””
Furthermore, according to the World Wildlife Federation there are six species of freshwater dolphins in the world. They inhabit the Amazon Basin and nearby river systems as well as the Indus, the Ganges and the Mekong rivers.
According to the WWF Website river dolphins are important to local ecosystems:
“River dolphins act as indicators of river health in the basins where they live. If the dolphin population in a river is thriving, then the overall state of that fresh water system is also likely flourishing. But if that population is on the decline, then it’s considered a red flag for the ecosystem as a whole.
WWF is the only organization working to safeguard all river dolphin species across the world. Under our River Dolphins Initiative, WWF collaborates with governments, communities, and other partners in countries with river dolphin populations to change policies and practices, address direct threats to the species such as bycatch and infrastructure, protect habitats, and bolster scientific research.””
Both the Indus dolphin and the Ganges dolphin have tiny eyes and are considered functionally blind. Like bats they depend on echolocation – bouncing sounds off of objects — to eat and locate each other in the muddy river waters. Recently we have reported on other aquatic mammals in distress. The Chinese dugong was recently declared functionally extinct. The Florida manatee has recently been experiencing a sudden die off and rescue efforts are underway.