It’s difficult for a lot of us to digest that India has a national aquatic animal. And guess what? It’s the dolphin. River Ganga is home to these beautiful 2.5m long, brown-grey water creatures. The happy news is Asia’s first National Dolphin Research Centre is being set to open soon in India, in an attempt to gauge and tackle the problem of the dramatically depleting number of the dolphins. The NDRC would be built in Patna University on the banks of the Ganga, at an estimated cost of ₹28 crores.
NDRC will prove a boon for research and conservation of dolphins; their habitat has been threatened and disturbed in the river. The water level has been decreasing and the flow has slowed down, siltation is increasing in the river and all this is not favourable for dolphins.
The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal but frequently falls prey to poachers and is sometimes killed inadvertently after being trapped in plastic fishing nets and hit by mechanised boats.The mammals are being killed at an alarming rate because poachers covet them for their flesh, fat and oil.
The mammal’s presence signals a healthy river ecosystem. Dolphins prefer water that is at least 5-8 feet deep.They live in a zone where there is little or no current that helps them save energy. If they sense danger, they can go into deep waters. They are usually found in turbulent waters where there is enough fish for them to feed on.
Bihar is home to almost half of the country’s estimated 3,000 dolphin population. The state government has decided to conduct a study of the Gangetic dolphin in 2018 in the 525 km stretch of the Ganga river between Chausa in the west and Manihari in the east.
Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The Gangetic river species — found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal — is completely blind. It finds its way and prey using echoes; with sound being everything for them to navigate, find mates, feed, escape danger, breed, nurse babies and play.