Ganges River Dolphin

Ganges River Dolphin
© Francois Xavier- Pelletier/WWF Canon
The Ganges River Dolphin Platanista gangetica gangetica is a mammal primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. A closely aligned species, the Indus River Dolphin has recently been found in Punjab. They have the long, pointed noses characteristic of all river dolphins. The teeth are visible in both the upper and lower jaws even when the mouth is closed. The teeth of young animals are almost an inch long, thin and curved. The snout thickens towards its end. The species does not have a crystalline eye lens, rendering it effectively blind. Navigation and hunting are carried out using echolocation. The body is a brownish colour and stocky at the middle. The species has only a small triangular lump in the place of a dorsal fin. The flippers and tail are thin and large in relation to the body size. Mature adult females are larger than males. Calves have been observed between January and May and do not appear to stay with the mother for more than a few months. Gestation is thought to be approximately 9-10 months. The species feeds on a variety of shrimp and fish, including carp and catfish. Dolphins are usually encountered on their own or in loose aggregations; they do not form tight, obviously interacting groups.

As an indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem, the Ganges River Dolphin has recently been recognized by the government of India as its National Aquatic Animal.
While habitat loss and pollution of fresh water aquatic systems are a major threat to this species, there are also reports that this animal is being killed and traded for its body parts, especially fat and oil. Little is known about present levels of this trade but given the precarious status of this species, such illegal and unregulated trade also poses a threat to the conservation of this species.

Ganges River Dolphin is listed on the Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and Schedule I of India’s Wildlife (Protection), Act, 1972. Therefore, hunting of the species and both domestic and international trade in the species and its parts and derivatives is completely prohibited.
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