DSC_0356Our team is excited to share that we have started our low-water season population survey of the endangered Ganges river dolphin in the Karnali-Geruwa-Katarniya international waterways of Nepal and India. We received a 2013 CLP Future Conservationist Award for this project, entitled “Ecology and Conservation of Ganges river dolphin Platanista gangetica in the Karnali Nepal.” The survey started on December 17, 2013 and is taking place upstream of the Girijapuri barrage in India in collaboration with Bardiya National Park of Nepal and WWF India.

DSC_0631The small dolphin population in this region is threatened by habitat fragmentation and degradation, prey depletion, pollution, intentional killing, lack of conservation awareness among local communities and relevant conservation authorities.

Up until now, we have surveyed about 65 Km along the main western branch of the Karnali river which runs up to the Girijapuri barrage in India. Surveys in Geruwa, the eastern branch of the river, andKatarniya river of India are being planned. Due to the low number of dolphins reported and following the recommendation of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, we are using a boat/vessel based direct count survey method in which a main observer looks forward and the two observers search for dolphins sitting to the left and right of the forward observer. We are maintaining the search effort of about 15-30 minutes in potential microhabitat of dolphins like confluences areas where high dolphin density is expected. Along with a population count, we are also recording habitat parameters like river depth, width, pH, temperature, channel morphology (confluence, deep pool, meanderings), substrate type and anthropogenic pressures (fishing boats, sand mining) etc in each 1-Km long segment. These habitat parameters will be used to identify the most influential factor for the dolphin‘s presence and habitat use patterns of dolphin during the low-water season.

This is the first ever survey for river dolphin covering both parts of Nepal and India in the Karnali river. This collaborative survey is an outcome of the Nepal India trans-boundary meeting which was held on October 31, 2013 in Bardiya National Park, supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme. The meeting achieved written commitment from local level conservation authorities of both Nepal and India for joint actions for dolphin conservation in the trans-border region. The joint survey will help to secure the long term survival of endangered dolphins of this region. The findings of the study are expected to give important insights on the current population status and habitat use patterns of the Gangetic dolphin and also can serve as a baseline for future research.
Published on: December 22, 2013

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