Two stray Indus River dolphin calves trapped in a canal in eastern Pakistan were rescued by a joint team of WWF and the Sindh Wildlife Department and released safely nearly 50 miles downstream.
The calves, a male and female, were stranded in the canal for two hours. Rescuers captured the dolphins, placed them on a stretcher, kept them moist with water and wet towels, and transported them in a sound-proof vehicle to the main stream of the Indus River for release.
The Indus River dolphin is one of the world’s rarest mammals and most endangered cetaceans. A 2011 dolphin population survey estimated the population to be 1,297 individuals.
Indus River dolphins frequently travel into irrigation canals when canal gates are open. But when the canals close, water levels drop and the dolphins become trapped in small pools with depleting fish supply. The stranding of Indus River dolphins—along with intensive fishing in canals that increases the risk of dolphins becoming entangled in nets—threatens the existing population.
In response, WWF and the Sindh Wildlife Department regularly perform such rescue operations. Since January 2013, rescuers saved five dolphins in four rescue operations.
Protection for one of the world’s rarest mammals
WWF launched the first phase of the Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project (IRDCP) in 2004 and the second in 2007. It aims to:
- preserve the dolphin’s genetic variability
- conserve the biological diversity of the lower Indus River ecosystem
- ensure sustainable use of river biological diversity
- promote actions to ease pollution and wasteful extraction of river resources.
The IRDCP also works with agricultural and fisheries sectors to address biodiversity loss. Eco-tourism is another part of the project with dolphin watching tours and the new Indus Dolphin Conservation Centre in Sukkur. The project combines conservation work with the improvement of the livelihood of local communities.