After 29 Million Years, A River Dolphin Faces Risky Future

“If you recall the emotional impact of the 2009 movie “The Cove,” you know how horrible it is to witness the spectacle of hunters trapping and slaughtering dolphins. But it was also gratifying to our feelings of outrage, because it seemed like something we could fix, with a bit of public outrage and international pressure.

“It’s infinitely harder to come to terms with the fate of an animal like the blind dolphin of the Indus River in Pakistan and India. Nobody stabs or beats them to death any more. Hunting ended by law in the early 1970s. But that is not the same thing as saving the subspecies. Instead the Indus River dolphins are on the red list of endangered species. They have lost 80 percent of their old home range, which once extended almost 2200 miles from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the Himalayas.

“Beginning in the early twentieth century, irrigation dams have repeatedly sub-divided the dolphin’s habitat, into a current total of 17 segments—10 of them now devoid of dolphins. According to a new study in the journal Biological Conservation, anywhere from 1200 to 1750 individuals survive—with 70 percent of them confined to a single 118-mile stretch of river.”


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