A refreshing revelation by the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF-Pakistan indicates that the catastrophic floods in river Indus and its tributaries in the past few years have given a substantial boast to the rare and endangered Blind Dolphins. The study which is part of the statistical survey of the organization conducted every five years, reveals that the number of the dolphins have increased and the population is thriving not only in the main stream river but also in the mega canals which are derivatives of the main river.
“In the river section between the Taunsa and Guddu barrages, we recorded 465 dolphins. This section previously has a record of 259 dolphins according to the 2001 survey.” Said Uzma Noureen the Project coordinator of the Indus Dolphin Conservation Project. “In the river section between the Sukkur and Kotri barrages, we recorded 34 dolphins whereas in 2006 only four dolphins were seen”. She added.
WWF, with the help of other conservation agencies conducts a detailed survey every five years working for the protection of Indus Dolphins.
“Sometimes we can’t survey all the side channels and canals due to security concerns. On the computer, we do a further analysis and the areas that we missed, we extrapolate. This is done on a scientific basis using the standard methods and techniques. This gives us the estimated population,” explains Uzma Noureen.
The infamous Indus Water Treaty signed by India and Pakistan was a major blow to the population of this magnificent creature which once lived in the sea and moved inland through the Indus Delta. Evolution took control and after thousands of years, the muddy waters of the river turned the dolphins blind equipping them with a highly evolved sonar system which helps them to navigate and hunt for prey.
These dolphins frequently roam around in the tributaries and canals of Indus but when the water level goes down, these dolphins are trapped and often killed due to low water level. Unlike Fish, Dolphins require fresh oxygen for breathing and have to surface after every five minutes for air which is also one major reason of their decline as they get stranded in the fishing nets.
Earlier reports suggested that there has been a decrease in the population of the Dolphins due to massive flooding in 2010 and the following years. However, many of the private conservation organizations have denied the claim.
Uzma agrees: “What we are saying is that if you look at the numbers there is a slight decrease but this needs careful interpretation; because of the massive 2010 floods there was so much water in the river, its span was wider and there were more side channels and therefore, detection was much harder. The study also found that while the dolphin population decreased in Sindh, it almost doubled in the Punjab, so clearly its distribution has spread”.
With the help of IUCN, which has declared Dolphins as the Highly Endangered Species, the government of Pakistan has also declared it illegal to hunt or kill the Dolphins and the offender can be pursued in the court of law.