Photo credit: David Dove / WWF Greater Mekong
The Irrawaddy dolphin is one of the most endangered species in the world but a new survey has revealed that one key population could be at the very edge of extinction.
Photo credit: WWF-Cambodia / Gerard Ryan
According to a new World Wildlife Fund survey, the Irrawaddy dolphin population in the Mekong watershed could be as small as 85 individuals. Most alarming, researchers said, was that the survival rate for calves was extremely low.
Dr. Li Lifeng, Director of WWF's Freshwater Program, explained that "evidence is strong that very few young animals survive to adulthood, as older dolphins die off and are not replaced."
In spite of the dire conclusions, the number of individuals identified in this latest survey was actually higher than previous studies. Researchers, however, explained that this increase was likely the result of improved methodology, not a larger population.
Barney Long, WWF's Asian Species Expert, commented that "These dolphins are at high risk of extinction by their small population size alone...with the added threats of gill net entanglement and high calf mortality, we are seriously concerned about their future."
The best hope for the dolphin, say researchers, is through joint conservation programs designed in cooperation with local fisheries administrations.
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