By: Nitin Konde
Dolphin is one mammal which is known for his friendly nature and people love to see dolphins in their natural habitat. Chambal dolphin or Ganga dolphin is a fresh water dolphin found in the river Ganga and its connecting rivers like Chambal. This fresh water dolphin has been declared the national aquatic animal by the government but now this national aquatic animal is on the edge of extinction. Chambal dolphin’s population has declined to a great extent over the years. The shocking numbers have come up during the recent census that figures have dropped down from 175 to 58 in last six years.
Fighting for survival
Recent census of dolphin population in Chambal River gave a big shock to the officials as their population has declined on alarming rate. Figures showed that animal is now fighting for its existence, if we go with the figures in the year 2006 the population was 175, in 2007 it was 91, 2008 it became 86 and by the time 2011 came the figures were decreased to just 48. The census team member Dr. Rishikesh Sharma who is also appointed as forest researcher in Morena said that situation has gone from bad to worst and if this continues then it’s quite possible that we will never see this beautiful animal ever after, it’s very important to make the people aware of current scenario so that they can come forward and join hands together in order to save the national aquatic animal. He added that the main problem is that most of the people don’t even know about this animal as when they hear the word dolphin they start imagining about the sea or dolphin aquariums, no one think about SOOS as they hardly know about them, now it’s a high time now people has to come forward in order to save the animal before its extinction.
How SOOS name was originated
Chambal River flows through three major states of India Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, river is a home for many aquatic species but the most attractive and popular among them is Ganga Dolphin. The national aquatic animal of India is also called SOOS the name is given as the dolphin make a sound ‘SOO’ when she comes on to the surface to breathe in oxygen. SOOS is very shy kind of animal and lives in community, and like sea water dolphin Soos also give birth to approximately one off spring per year.
Government’s efforts but no worthy result
Despite of government’s efforts to save the animal, the population has been declining on alarming rate. Dolphins have been declared as the National Aquatic Animal of India in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 5, 2009. It had been included in the Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, thereby giving them the highest degree of protection.
A proposal to study of dolphin population dynamics in Chambal and its tributaries, identification and study of their breeding pocket and yearly status review study of resident dolphin population in river Chambal is still under consideration.
The reason for the declination
Species population is greatly affected by human use of the river systems in the subcontinent. Entanglement in fishing nets can cause significant damage to local population numbers. Some individuals are still taken each year and their oil and meat used as a liniment. Irrigation has lowered water levels throughout both subspecies’ ranges. Poisoning of the water supply from industrial and agricultural chemicals may have also contributed to population decline. Perhaps the most significant issue is the building of more than 50 dams along many rivers, causing the segregation of populations and a narrowed gene pool in which dolphins can breed. The officials had to face inter-state issues while surveying the 435-km stretch of Chambal River passing through MP, Rajasthan and Utter Pradesh (UP).
While forest officials in MP and Rajasthan got along, their UP counterparts expressed lack of concern. The UP rangers cautioned surveyors to stay away entering the area falling under their jurisdiction. Following which survey of 30-km stretch in UP (Chakan Nagar to PanchNagar) had to be abandoned. Surprisingly, two dolphins were found dead under mysterious circumstances in the same region in UP after the survey was over. A 134-cm long dolphin was found dead in a rivulet in Chakan Nagar (Sahson area) close to Chambal River in UP’s Etawah district in August.
Director of environment department of Jiwaji University Professor RC Roy said that if we talk about Dolphins in Chambal River the population issue is not that alarming as compare to other tributaries and the main reason behind this is the National Ghariyal Sanctuary which is a great breeding ground for this national animal and many other species like Ghariyal, fresh water turtle and many more. He also added that from 5th of September a survey will be conducted on Ganga River and its tributaries which will give the recent figure of the population of Soos. Survey team has been equipped with latest aquatic equipment and sonic devices as the project is a joint venture with Japan. This survey is very important as to know the current scenario so that necessary step can be taken to save the animal from extinction.