KARACHI: A WWF-Pakistan and Sindh Wildlife Department team safely released a stranded Indus River dolphin into the main river.
The 42-inch-long female dolphin was spotted by locals stranded in Wassand Wah, a minor tributary of Warah Canal in Larkana. The locals, while considering the urgency, translocated the dolphin to comparatively deeper waters in a nearby fish pond as an immediate response to avoid its stranding-induced mortality. They later informed media and Sindh Wildlife Department officials. The rescue team carefully captured the dolphin following standard rescue protocols and transported it in a sound proof ambulance to release it in the Indus River at Sukkur Barrage upstream.
Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes of WWF-Pakistan appreciated the community's role in the successful rescue of the dolphin. According to him WWF-Pakistan believes in empowering community stewardship to conserve endangered species like the Indus river dolphin, which is believed to be a sustainable conservation approach. He shed light on a few aspects of WWF-Pakistan's long-term community outreach and awareness programme implemented as part of the Indus River Conservation Initiative in collaboration with partners. More than 140 dolphins have been rescued as a result of the programme since 1992. Community awareness and education has also helped substantially decrease stranding-induced dolphin mortalities in recent years. WWF-Pakistan set up a 24-hour phone helpline, 071 561 5505, which has been instrumental in further strengthening the existing dolphin rescue programme.
Stranding in low waters is a constant threat which this endangered species faces. Stranding usually occurs during a period of canal closures when flood gates are closed resulting in a drop in the water level. Furthermore, intensive fishing in the core dolphin habitat is another threat which increases the probability of dolphins getting entangled in fishing nets, making it critical to continuously monitor the Indus River and adjacent canals. The Indus dolphin rescue programme, therefore, has been an integral component of WWF-Pakistan's conservation work for this species and is a continuous activity being carried out in collaboration with the Sindh Wildlife Department. WWF-Pakistan has also organized capacity building workshops and training sessions for Sindh Wildlife Department officials on the safe rescue and release of stranded Indus river dolphins.
The Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is an endangered freshwater cetacean and is only found in the Indus River in Pakistan. It is also a WWF priority species. The Indus river dolphin population is highly fragmented due to the construction of water regulatory barrages with the largest population concentrated between Guddu and Sukkur barrages; a legally protected area known as the Indus Dolphin Game Reserve.