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The Ganges River Dolphin: National Dolphin Day

Platanista gangetica commonly known as dolphins is the national aquatic animal of our country- India (declared in 2009). The Ganges River Dolphins are however as less as 1200-1800 in number. These creatures are majorly found in deep waters cover areas of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. The Ganges River Dolphin’s state changed from being vulnerable to “endangered” in just 2 years (1994-1996).

Dolphins are referred to as Tiger of the Ganga! The reason is not what you think it is. It is called so because it is facing as many threats in the river as tigers are facing in the land ecosystems! Dolphins are even the smartest of all animals. It is said that after humans, it is dolphins who take up the position in the ratio size of the brain to the body!

The sad part is that they often get trapped above dams which directly invites poaching! And the ones trapped below are affected by severe water pollution, big vessel wastes, and even fishery! In a case study done by the World Health Organisation, it was stated that- “ 75 per cent of the pollution load was from untreated municipal sewage in the Ganga”- this directs that the dolphins are not just open to the above-mentioned threats but also a severe lack of food as their preys die from river pollution. The dolphins-one of the oldest animals in the world are now endangered- why? Because of our carelessness and lack of will to take action! This creature was once present in a huge number that went up to thousands, but due to human actions over the last century has dropped the number drastically! Dolphins are mainly in danger because of habitat alteration. The only thing that can help them in this scenario is habitat relocation. They are suffering an existential crisis because of humans. The river water quality is poor. The water quality is neither monitored nor managed. And hence today, there is a huge threat to almost all distributed dolphin hotspots.

While human activities have made them endangered, some superstitions are saving their lives as well! In an article by Telegraph India, it is mentioned that “In 1991, a resident of the area had allegedly killed a dolphin in the Kulsi and upon returning home, he found his son died under mysterious circumstances. The news had spread like wildfire and since then, the area had become a haven for the Gangetic dolphin.” This is because they believe that killing a dolphin will lead to the loss of a family member! This may not be true but its impact is truly what we need!

Dolphins are a crucial part of the ecosystem as they help maintain balance in the environment. The main part of their diet includes fishes and squids! In the food chain, they are a part of the diet of sharks. Dolphins even hold cultural importance as they have migrated all over the world to different rivers and oceans!

To help us save dolphins, all you need to do is not to pollute rivers and clean the already devastating situation. Here is how you can contribute:

  • Reduce plastic! Always carry a cloth/paper bag while going out for shopping.

  • Do not take bath/allow others to do so in rivers as it releases your soap chemicals into the river!

  • Join the river clean-ups!

  • Do not buy any items that are made using aquatic animals (in any way).

  • If you’re a non-vegetarian, turn into a vegetarian/vegan at at-least once a week.

We have to reverse the decline in the situation of the species and we have to do it now! Let’s call our government to dedicate more serious efforts to this and help the beautiful creature to not go extinct like many others!