Bangladesh creates new dolphin sanctuaries

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Government wildlife conservation officials in Bangladesh have announced the creation of three dolphin sanctuaries in the southern Sundarbans mangrove forest.

The mangrove forest in this region is home to two of the world's most endangered cetacean species – the Ganges river dolphin or Susu (Platanista gangetica) and the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) pictured above.

While neither species is targeted deliberately by fishermen, they can become entangled in fishing nets and drown, while at the same time  increasing  pollution and rising levels of salinity in some of their range are also having an impact on their already low populations.

The three areas that will gain the new status and protection were identified as 'dolphin hotspots' by the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society as part of their research in the region.

The Bangladesh ministry of the environment will shortly issue official notification on the establishment of the sanctuaries and the waterways in these areas will be 'clearly demarcated' with signs to prevent local fishermen straying into the restricted areas.

The Susu is one of only four 'obligate' freshwater dolphins species, the other three being Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) found in the Yangtze river in China, the Bhulan (Platanista minor) of the Indus in Pakistan and the Boto (Inia geoffrensis) of the Amazon River in South America.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is a small relation of the more famous Orca, or Killer whale and lives along the coasts and in the estuaries and rivers of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.

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