Update on conservation of the critically endangered Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins


The CSG has provided technical support to efforts to save the Mekong River’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins – only about 85 remain in Cambodia and Laos. There is some good news – with new protection and research efforts.

The entire current range of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Cambodian Mekong River was declared protected by the government last year – permanently prohibiting gillnet use in core areas. Generous funding through the Save Our Species fund will provide training and equipment to Cambodian Fisheries Officers and River Guards to protect dolphins from entanglement, which remains the leading cause of adult mortality.

High levels of calf mortality remain a major threat to this sub-population. In ongoing efforts to resolve the problem, remote biopsy work will be conducted by local conservationists in partnership with specialists from the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration: Lisa Ballance, Bob Pitman and Bob Brownell.

Efforts are also underway to better understand Mekong dolphin population dynamics using photo-identification work conducted by Dr. Isabel Beasley from 2001 to 2005, and photo-ID data being collected on an ongoing basis by the Cambodian Fisheries Administration and WWF. The results of analyses of the long-term, combined dataset are expected to be out soon.

More information on these efforts can be found in our Special Projects section.