CSG Chair Randall R. Reeves awarded Citation of Excellence

Dr Randall R. Reeves, Chair of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, has been awarded the Species Survival Commission Chair’s Citation of Excellence. The award was given in recognition of his leadership of whale and dolphin conservation worldwide and his exceptional service as Chair of the SSC Cetacean Specialist Group over many years. The award was presented by Simon Stuart Chair of the Species Survival Commission at Meeting of SSC Chairs held in Abu Dhabi, February 2012. Randall Reeves has been the Chair of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group since 1997 and was Deputy Chair from 1992-1997.

Update on Mekong River Dolphins in Cambodia

An international team of scientists, including several from the CSG, spent the week of 9-13 January 2012 in Cambodia working with Cambodian counterparts on efforts to refine understanding of the status of dolphins in the Mekong River (Orcaella brevirostris), determine cause(s) of the exceptionally high calf mortality documented in recent years, and improve protection measures (especially pertaining to bycatch in gillnets). This was a follow-up to an earlier meeting in October 2009 (see previous report on this website under Special Projects: Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphins).

A recent publication led by Gerry Ryan of the WWF-Cambodia dolphin project had estimated current abundance of this relict population as only 85 (95% CI= 77.9-91.2) based on a novel mark-resight estimation method (Ryan et al. 2011). Perhaps more importantly, Ryan and his co-authors estimated seniority at 0.999 (0.028 SE), recruitment at 0.001, and population growth rate at 0.978, concluding: “Although the population size appears to be stable, we believe this represents the slow disappearance of a long-lived animal with no recruitment.”

A key finding by the visiting scientific team (which included veterinarians Frances Gulland, Thijs Kuiken, Antonio Fernández, and Paul Jepson) was that there is no evidence to support the idea that a disease process is involved in the high incidence of calf deaths. Nor is there any support for the view that this population is suffering significantly from contaminant exposure or inbreeding. Entanglement in fishing gear, mainly gillnets, is unquestionably the primary cause of death for non-calves, but the primary cause(s) for the very high mortality of calves remain unknown.

By the end of a week of meetings, laboratory work, and field observations, the responsible parties in Cambodia – the Commission for Conservation and Development of Mekong River Dolphin Ecotourism Zone, the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and WWF-Cambodia – signed a document called the Kratie Declaration on the Conservation of the Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphins. The declaration commits them to work collaboratively and with a sense of urgency to address the conservation and scientific recommendations developed jointly by the international experts and the local and regional participants who attended the workshop.

The Kratie Declaration, together with its appendices which contain the findings and recommendations from the workshop, is available for download from the Downloads tab on this site or by following this link.

Increasing Indus River dolphin mortality

The following news article was produced by Uzma Noureen at WWF-Pakistan.  For more information  she can be contacted at:  unoureen@wwf.panda.org

The Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is an endangered subspecies of freshwater dolphin found only in the Indus River System in Pakistan.  In 2006 the entire subspecies was estimated to number about 1600 – 1750 individuals (Braulik et al. in review). The largest subpopulation, consisting of about 1200 individuals, exists at high density in a 200 km stretch of the Indus River between Guddu and Sukkur barrages in Sindh Province.  In the past, mortality rates within this subpopulation were very low (0-2 animals/year).  However, Indus dolphin mortality has increased dramatically following the devastating flood in 2010.  An unprecedented total of 28 dolphins were reported dead from between Guddu and Sukkur barrages in the year 2011.

The flood severely affected the socio-economic condition of indigenous communities escalating their dependence on natural resources.  Although fishing in the river is banned between Guddu and Sukkur barrages, a Dolphin Reserve, local people are dependent on fishing in the adjacent or appended temporary lakes, channels, canals and pools for their subsistence.  It is suspected that dolphins are attracted to such areas due to availability of prey, and become entangled in nets.

In addition, the recent amendments to the fisheries legislation in Sindh have changed fishing practices.  In the past powerful contractors controlled the fishing rights, but licenses are now issued to individuals at very low cost.  This has resulted in over harvesting of fish resources, and an increase in illegal fishing practices in the river, such as over-night netting and pesticide poisoning.  Traditional contract fishing systems still operate in some locations in the protected area, where contractors either hire local people to fish or bring in migrant labourers.

Finally, river turtles are the target of a new, large-scale, illegal trade to China.  Turtle hunters use methods such as leaving baited hooks over-night and pesticide poisoning, both of which may also have contributed to the increased river dolphin mortality.

Local wildlife departments and WWF-Pakistan are working to identify the causes of the Indus dolphin mortality.  They are also involving communities, and working with the provincial and federal government to address this emerging issue.

 

Secured By miniOrange