© François Xavier Pelletier / WWF

Ganges river dolphin

Key Facts

  • Common Name


  • Scientific Name

    Platanista gangetica gangetica

  • Population

    Less than 1800 (1200 to 1800)

  • Length

    Up to 2.70 m (Female), 2.12 m (Male)

  • Weight

    150-170 Kg.

  • Status

    Endangered (IUCN)

Ganges Freshwater Dolphin 
© François Xavier PELLETIER/WWF
Ganges Freshwater Dolphin
© François Xavier PELLETIER/WWF


The Ganges river dolphin has a sturdy, yet flexible, body with large flippers and a low triangular dorsal fin. It weighs upto 150kg. The calves are chocolate brown at birth and become grayish brown in adulthood with a smooth and hairless skin. Females are larger than males. The maximum size of a female is 2.67 m and of a male 2.12 m. Females attain sexual maturity at an age of 10-12 years, while the males mature earlier. The gestation period is 9-11 months and a female gives birth to only one calf, once in 2-3 years. Dolphins are among one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks. The Gangetic Dolphins are generally blind and catch their prey in a unique manner. They emit an ultrasonic sound which reaches the prey. The dolphin then registers this image in its mind and subsequently catches hold of its prey.

Conservation Issues

Once present in tens of thousands of numbers, the Ganges river dolphin has dwindled abysmally to less than 2000 during the last century owing to direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing. It is for these reasons that despite high level of protection, its numbers continue to decline. The absence of a coordinated conservation plan, lack of awareness and continuing anthropogenic pressure, are posing incessant threats to the existing dolphin population.

WWF-India’s Initiatives

WWF-India identified optimal habitats in 9 stretches in 8 rivers as ideal habitats for Ganges river dolphin population and hence for prioritized conservation action. These include: Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora) in the state of Uttar Pradesh (Proposed Ramsar Site), Chambal River (up to 10 km downstream of Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary) in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Ghagra and Gandak River, in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Ganga River, from Varanasi to Patna in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively, Son and Kosi River in Bihar, Brahamaputra River from Sadia (foothills of Arunachal Pradesh) upto the Dhubri (Bangladesh Border), Kulsi River a tributary of Brahamaputra. Education and awareness programmes for fishermen and other riparian population are conducted for communities along the rivers. A strategy and Action Plan for the Ganges river dolphin conservation has been formulated for Uttar Pradesh with the help of the State Forest Department. A network of partners for the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation in the country is also created.

Habitat and Distribution

Ganges river dolphins prefer deep waters, in and around the confluence of rivers. The distribution range of the Ganges river dolphins in India covers seven states namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The upper Ganga River (in Uttar Pradesh), Chambal River (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh), Ghaghra and Gandak Rivers (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh), Ganga River, from Varanasi to Patna (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), Son and Kosi rivers (Bihar), Brahmaputra from Sadia (foothills of Arunachal Pradesh) upto Dhubri (on the Bangladesh border) and Kulsi River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, form ideal habitats for the Ganges river dolphin.
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