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Dolphins or Detectives?

January 25, 2012
Field expedition WWF India

Gangotri Glacier

While working as the Senior Program Officer on my most recent assignment inIndia, one of the virtues that I loved the most was to be able to work on the field based assignments.

This position took me upstream to the highest reaches of Himalayasand downstream to the home of the endemic Gangetic Dolphins (Platanista gangetica) at Narora in U. P. India.

Gangetic Dolphin Platanista gangetica

Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica)

It was depressing to observe the state of affairs at the local habitat where these dolphins live.

The endemic gangetic dolphin, one of the rarest and most endangered species in the river, has an estimated population of about 2000 individuals in the Ganga-Brahmaputra river systems.

The population has dwindled in the recent past due to

  • habitat degradation
  • low water regimes in the river
  • dams and barrages and siltation
  • the impacts of pollution and
  • unconventional fishing practices

All these factors have reduced the dolphin’s food base. Accidental capture and death of dolphin has also added to the misery. As a result, it has been given maximum legal protection under Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Why am I repeating all these facts, which are readily available online and in research articles in my blog today?

The recent write up on the marine dolphins in the Guardian UK caught my eye and forced me to think about the extent to which humans can go in exploiting the nature of its resources.

As it is the present condition of the dolphins was not dismal enough due to anthropogenic factors in the freshwater ecosystem, the most recent declaration of US Navy to put dolphins in harm’s way in thePersian Gulf has given a new meaning to the species enslavement in the marine ecosystem.

(To read more on the same please click here.)

The US Navy has already been employing these highly intelligent creatures for the detection of the mines in the past. Unfortunately, dolphins not only detect the mines through their acoustic transponders but also get killed due to accidental setting off of these mines.

Whatever the human projects and planning might involve, we must leave the dolphins out of it. Their sufferings are dwarfed in comparison to the domesticated animals that we use for our poultry and dairy purposes.

We must realize that dolphins are not very different from the humans in being social and forming bonds between each other. When we can’t stand the idea of human slavery, how can the conceited minds of humans come up with involving the dolphins in their developmental projects, warfare, policies, and issues?

What have dolphins got to do with the infrastructure building, nuclear policies and other developmental projects of us humans?

I have seen them closely in person and they are the most innocent and vulnerable creatures present in the aquatic ecosystem.

Dolphins must be left alone as creatures of the water away from any human interventions.

I truly believe that the efforts of the environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shall go a long way in protecting these innocent creatures and their home.


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