Patna to have Asia’s first Dolphin Research Centre

PATNA: With the Union government reportedly giving its approval, Patna University (PU) is likely to have Asia’s first Dolphin Research Centre soon.

The state government had earlier submitted to the Union government a proposal to set up the research centre, listing therein ways to conserve the dwindling population of dolphins.

The idea of setting up this centre was mooted when Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia visited Patna on February 18 last year and watched dolphins in the Ganga. He offered financial help to set up this centre. Later, chief minister Nitish Kumar, at a meeting of the state wildlife board, endorsed the proposal and asked the planning secretary to go ahead with it.

According to Gangetic dolphin expert and PU zoology teacher Ravindra Kumar Sinha, there are only about 2,500 dolphins in the Ganga basin, according to a 2006 survey, of which 60% are found exclusively in Bihar. The mammals are found at the confluence of the Ganga and the Saryu at Doriganj in Saran district, confluence the of Ganga and the Gandak at Sonepur in the same district and the confluence of the Ganga and the Kosi at Kursela in Katihar district.

The number of dolphins has been decreasing mainly because of increasing pollution of the river water and indiscriminate killing of the animal by fishermen. Decrease in the depth of rivers due to increasing siltation and rise in industrial and municipal effluents have also led to reduction in the habitat size of the mammal and decline in its population, says Sinha.

The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, India’s only dolphin sanctuary, spread over 50km along the Ganga, is located in Bhagalpur district. The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal, but it frequently falls prey to poachers. Their carcasses are found regularly on river banks.

The mammals are killed at an alarming rate with wildlife officials saying poachers kill them for their flesh and oil, which is used as an ointment and aphrodisiac.

Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Last year, the Bihar government decided to set up a task force for their conservation.

The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in Yangtze river in China, Indus river in Pakistan and Amazon river in South America. The Gangetic river species – found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal – is blind and finds its way and prey in the river waters with the help of ‘echoes’.

Source: Times of India

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