Dying dolphins

Recently, a dead Indus dolphin was found floating in Dadu Canal. Blind dolphins are rare mammals and the second most endangered species in the world. They are found in waters between Guddu and Sukkur barrages located in the lower Indus River reach. Around 20 Indus dolphins reportedly die each year. However, the number might be more as most such cases go undetected or unreported.

It is the prime responsibility of the Sindh Wildlife Department to protect endangered species. Despite receiving World Bank funds for the conservation of Indus dolphins, the department concerned has failed to perform its duty properly.

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The population of Indus blind dolphin was 1,419 as per the survey conducted by said department in 2019 based on naked-eye sightings, which is definitely not a reliable methodology and effective technique.

Alternatively, a survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Pakistan, reported 1,075 dolphins between Guddu and Sukkur barrages in 2017.

It is important to conduct census on an yearly basis through a super survey both upstream and downstream to keep a record of the population of blind dolphins. Analytical methods, like the Zero-truncated Poisson-log Normal Estimator (ZPNE), should be used for the task so that the total number of marked and unmarked dolphins may be counted.

Gillnet, overfishing and illegal fishing practices should be stopped immediately and the water from upstream dams should be released immediately by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) for the survival of these innocent creatures.

A thorough scientific study should be conducted to find out why dolphins are dying in Dadu Canal and elsewhere. In this connection, robust monitoring of the dolphin population should be done by international experts.

Further, the authorities concerned should curtail anthropogenic events that put additional burden on the Indus River’s biodiversity, particularly related to the blind dolphins.

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Moreover, the existing coordination and collaboration involving federal, Punjab and Sindh officials must be improved to ensure the availability of the required water level downstream for Indus dolphins and other species.



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