India’s National Aquatic Animal is the calm and elegant Ganges River Dolphin. The Ministry of Environment and Forests proclaimed this endangered species as India’s National Aquatic Animal on May 18, 2010, giving it equivalent recognition with the Peacock, India’s National Bird, and the Tiger, India’s National Animal.
The Ganges River Dolphin is a native species of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna River systems in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, which range from the Himalayan foothills to the tidal zone.
When it comes to the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista Gangetica), deep waters in and near the confluence of two or more rivers are preferred. It features a strong, but flexible, body and can support a maximum weight of 150 kg. Generally, these dolphins are blind, and they capture their prey in an unusual way. They produce an ultrasonic sound that is picked up by their victim. The dolphin then stores this picture in its memory and is able to capture its victim once it has been captured.
WWF-India recognized the Ganges River Dolphin as a category of exceptional concern. A Ganges River Dolphin Protection Program was started in 1997 to create a factual record of the population status of the species and investigate the ecological integrity of the dolphin’s distribution area.
Collaborating closely with different government departments, particularly the State Forest Department, as well as local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and scientists, researchers, and academic institutions, WWF-India is ensuring that the action plan is implemented through capacity-building while also carrying out conservation awareness and education activities. To identify hotspots and establish management strategies with the assistance of the Forest Department, a River Watch Program was also launched to raise awareness in targeted regions and identify hot spots.
Furthermore, the World Wildlife Fund-India has formed collaborations with the University of Tokyo and the Indian Institute of Technology to get new perspectives into the behavior of dolphins. This collaboration makes use of cutting-edge technology that allows dolphins to be tracked down to their exact underwater motions and sonar range, even in very shallow water.
It has also been shown that an auditory data logger device can count the number of dolphins in a given area. WWF-existing India’s well-established River Dolphin program will benefit from the results, which will be used to sharpen and expand the scope of the program.
With the designation of Gangetic River Dolphins as India’s National Aquatic Animal, several conservation groups, including WWF-India, have made strides in their efforts to preserve the river dolphin.
From 1996 to the present, the number of river dolphins in the 165-kilometer stretch of the Ganges between Brijghat and Narora has more than quadrupled, owing in great part to the work of the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Program (GRADP).
The group believes that public awareness of the danger that the dolphin confronts, along with genuine efforts to protect its environment, would allow this species to be saved from extinction in the near future.
What is the significance of the Ganges Dolphin being selected as India’s National Aquatic Animal?
During the inaugural meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2009, the statement was made in support of the project. The primary motivation for designating the Ganges River Dolphin as India’s National Aquatic Animal was to preserve the critically endangered species.
In addition, the Ganges Dolphin is seen as a barometer of the healthiness of the Ganga River’s ecosystem. The presence of a diverse range of organisms in a river ecosystem is the ideal reflection of the health of the river.
The Ganga river environment supports a diverse range of organisms. Increasing pressures on the river for economic and commercial reasons, as well as unfair anthropogenic activity, have resulted in increased pollution and insufficient flows, which has ushered in the further depletion of natural habitats and disruption of the food chain for riverine biodiversity, among other consequences of human intervention.
Because of this, the biodiversity of the river system has suffered significantly, and the River Ganga has almost completely lost some of its most important species, such as Ganga River Dolphins (Platanista Gangetica), Gharials (Gavialis Gangeticus), and other species that have been classified as endangered under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Over the last several decades, the species’ continued survival has been a source of significant worry due to the fact that it is an indicator species for the health of the river environment.
Know More About National Aquatic Animal Of India
The Ganges River Dolphins (Platanista Gangetica) were first found in 1801 and were given their scientific name in 1802.
The following are the initial stretches where the Indian National Aquatic Animal can be found:
The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna River Systems, as well as the Karnaphuli-Sangu River Systems, which flow through Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, respectively
|scientific Epithet||Platanista Gangetica Gangetica|
|Population||Below 1800 (1200 to 1800)|
|Length||2.70 m (Female), 2.12 m (Male)|
Fascinating Facts about National Aquatic Animal of India – Ganges River Dolphin
- This dolphin can only be found in freshwater, which is why it is called the Ganges River Dolphin.
- They are regarded as the top predators in the aquatic food chain.
- The Ganges River Dolphin, along with the Indus River Dolphin, is a subspecies of the South Asian River Dolphin, which is also known as the Indian River Dolphin.
- Susu is another name for this species of South Asian River Dolphin, which is derived from the whistle-like sound that they produce.
- There are locally known as Susu, Shushak, Side Swimming Dolphin & Blind Dolphin.
- They like deep pools, eddy counter-currents, and sharp meanders, as well as the upstream and downstream of mid-channel islands, which are all found downstream of the confluence of rivers and sharp meanders, as well as upstream and downstream of sharp meanders.
- In Bihar, there is a Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary named the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, and the Gangetic Dolphin is referred to as the ‘Soons’ by the locals.
- Because they are generally blind, they rely on the technique known as “Echolocation” to capture their prey.
- Because it is a mammal, it is unable to breathe when submerged in water. It comes to the surface of the water every 30-40 seconds to take a breath.
- According to Indian mythology, the dolphin is believed to be the chariot of the goddess Ganga.
- According to WWF-India, the Ganges River Dolphin has a population of fewer than 1800 species.
- Dolphin calves are born chocolate brownish in color when they are first born, and their color progressively fades to grey as they get older.
- The Ganges River Dolphin has been listed as “Endangered” on the Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- The species is protected from extinction because it is classified on Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The species is thought to be on the verge of extinction. According to Indian law, hunting is prohibited across India, with the exception of situations requiring an immediate threat to human life.
- Ganges Dolphin trade is banned in India
HABITAT AND ECOLOGY
The Ganges River Dolphin is a protected species that can only be found in freshwater river systems, especially in plains with slow rivers, and it is found in freshwater river systems.
When they are in deep water, they like to stay there since the prey supply is plentiful. They prey mostly on fish and invertebrates, and they search for their prey by using echolocation to find the food they are after.
These mammals have a powerful but nimble body, large flippers, and a triangular dorsal fin that is located close to the surface of the water. It is capable of supporting a maximum weight of 150 kg.
Calves are born a chocolate brown color and develop to a greyish brown color with smooth, hairless skin as they get older.
Females are noticeably bigger than males in this species. Females may grow to be 2.67 meters, while men can grow to be 2.12 meters, depending on their genetics.
Generally speaking, females achieve sexual maturity between the ages of 10 and 12, while men reach sexual maturity much earlier.
During her pregnancy, the female Dolphin gives birth to just one baby, after which she gives birth to another every two to three years for the remainder of her life.
The World Wildlife Fund says that dolphins have been living for millions of years together with certain turtles, crocodiles, and sharks and are regarded to be among the world’s oldest surviving animals.
General blindness affects Gangetic dolphins and, they capture their prey in a unique way. They have to produce an ultrasonic sound to find their target. This picture is then reminded of by the creature and, utilized to capture its victim.
CONSERVATION ISSUES and ACTIONS TAKEN
The Ganges river dolphin, which was formerly found in tens of thousands of individuals, has been reduced to fewer than 2000 individuals over the course of the past century as a result of direct killing, habitat fragmentation caused by dams, and barrages, and indiscriminate fishing.
It is for these reasons that, despite the great degree of protection provided, its population continues to decrease. There is an ongoing danger to the current dolphin population due to the lack of a coordinated conservation strategy, a lack of public awareness, and ongoing human pressure.
The following are the most significant measures done in order to preserve the Ganges River Dolphin in order to address these issues:
- Use visual/sonar surveys, habitat mapping, and interviews with locals to conduct standardized techniques for monitoring dolphin status, habitat preferences, and population migrations in rivers.
- Investigate the importance of various risks responsible for dolphin deaths via post-mortems and interviews, as well as starting measures to reduce/prevent the prioritized threats in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
- Using water quality monitoring, thoroughly assess the impacts of water-borne contaminants on dolphins, the Brahmaputra River ecosystem, and riverbank populations.
- To improve and expand local capacity to preserve recognized dolphin hotspots.
- Determine the economic and ecological importance of fish, as well as the effect of fishing on larger-scale ecosystem health. This will provide the groundwork for long-term recovery plans for the Ganges dolphin population, as well as regional freshwater ecosystem services.
The Ganges river dolphin’s home is in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Dolphins and humans both like parts of the Ganges river where fish are plentiful and the water current is slower.
This has resulted in less fish for people and an increase in dolphin fatalities as a result of getting caught in fishing nets inadvertently, a practice known as bycatch.
The Ganges river dolphin’s meat and oil, both of which have medicinal qualities, are still sought after. In addition, the oil is used to attract catfish in net fisheries.
Pollution from industry, agriculture, and humans is another major driver of habitat deterioration. Every year, 9,000 tonnes of insecticides and 6 million tonnes of fertilizer are utilized in the river’s area.
Pollution at high levels may directly kill prey animals and dolphins while also destroying their habitat. River dolphins, as the top predator, have been shown to have significant amounts of persistent harmful substances in their systems, which is likely to harm their health.
INITIATIVES OF WWF-INDIA
The World Wildlife Fund aims to minimize habitat degradation caused by dams, irrigation canals, and water withdrawals.
The group also aims to reduce freshwater ecosystem degradation and dolphin fatalities as a result of fishing bycatch and intentional eradication of the species.
The World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF-India also launched the Dolphin Conservation Programme to protect the Ganges river dolphin’s habitat and ensure the species’ survival.
WWF-India has selected the following stretches:
- Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora) in the state of Uttar Pradesh (Proposed Ramsar Site)
- Chambal River (up to 10 km downstream of Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary) in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh
- Ghagra and Gandak River, in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
- Ganga River, from Varanasi to Patna in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively
- Son and Kosi River in Bihar
- Brahmaputra River from Sadia (foothills of Arunachal Pradesh) up to the Dhubri (Bangladesh Border)
- Kulsi River a tributary of Brahmaputra.
In October 2019, WWF-India, in partnership with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, launched the Annual Gangetic River Dolphin Survey.
- For the survey, the Tandem Boat Method was utilized
- It was carried out beside a 250-kilometer length of the Ganga River between the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary and the Narora Ramsar site
- Educating and motivating people to preserve Ganges River Dolphins (Ganga River Dolphins).
- WFP urges local people along a critical length of dolphin habitat to utilize natural fertilizers, avoid disposing of household sewage in the river, restore the riverbank, and prohibit commercial fishing and sand-mining operations in order to protect dolphins.