DoNPWC completes first integrated dolphin census

Kathmandu, September 2

The first integrated dolphin census, which was officially launched on July 23 this year, has been completed after the field level enumeration came to a final conclusion from various major river systems across Nepal.

Over the years, several studies have been carried out by I/NGOs. However, an integrated, nationwide and scientific census of dolphin had not been conducted previously.

Therefore, the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation had launched this census about a month ago in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation and International Union for Conservation of Nature for the first time in Nepal.

One of the partners of the census, National Trust for Nature Conservation said the field level enumeration was complete and that they were going to start analysis and final report formulation very soon.

“We just finished the field level enumeration which has taken almost a month,” Senior Conservation Officer at NTNC, Naresh Subedi told The Himalayan Times, “We will now proceed to record detailed verification, evaluation and comparison.

The preparation of the final report may yet take a few weeks after which we will have a new complete scientific data of Dolphins in Nepal.”

According to coordination authority of the census programme, DNPWC, the dolphin count was carried out in the Karnali, Mohana, Narayani and Koshi rivers and its vicinity. All the dolphin habitats have been covered in the census to find out the actual number of dolphins in Nepal.

Till date, the government did not have reliable and comprehensive data on dolphins as only location-oriented studies have been carried out in the past.

The department said that although it was predicted that the census may take an estimated one-and-a-half months, census work ended earlier than expected.

Senior Conservation Officer at NTNC, Dr Subedi, added that new data would also help prepare strategies to protect the endangered species. According to him, a nationwide count was the most efficient way of collecting all types of information related to ecology and dolphin habitat.

During the location-based survey carried out in 2014, a total of 28 Platanista gangetica were found in the Saptakoshi, Karnali and Narayani rivers. World Wildlife Fund reports that dolphins are some of the most endangered of all the world’s cetaceans and are at high risk of extinction due to habitat loss and hunting by humans.

The IUCN which has also placed the Platanista gangetica on its red list, has made considerable effort to document the status of this particular species since the early 1970s. Yet rigorous quantitative data on numbers, mortality, extent of occurrence, and area of occupancy are still lacking. The diversity and scale of threats recent, ongoing, and projected have generally outpaced documentation efforts.

It is crucial at this stage to bear in mind that this species is the sole living representative of its family (which represents an ancient lineage in the order Cetartiodactyla), and therefore its extinction would mean loss of more than just a single species with very limited data available on its life history.