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 to 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 Rivers 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 capture their prey in an unusual way. They produce an ultrasonic sound that their victim picks up. The dolphin then stores this picture in its memory and can 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, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 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 uses 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 preserving 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 dolphin’s danger, along with genuine efforts to protect its environment, would allow this species to be saved from extinction in the near future.
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, a 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 and 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 because it is an indicator species for the health of the river environment.
Know More About the 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 the 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, sharp meanders, and 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 cannot breathe when submerged in water. It comes to the water’s surface 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 when first born, and their color progressively fades to grey as they age.
- 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 under 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.
- The 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. It is found in freshwater river systems.
They like to stay there when they are in deep water since the prey supply is plentiful. They prey mostly on fish and invertebrates and search for their prey by using echolocation to find the food they are after.
These mammals have a powerful but nimble bodies, large flippers, and a triangular dorsal fin located close to the water’s surface. It is capable of supporting a maximum weight of 150 kg.
Calves are born chocolate brown and develop to a greyish brown color with smooth, hairless skin as they age.
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 uniquely capture their prey. They have to produce an ultrasonic sound to find their target. This picture is then reminded of 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 past century as a result of direct killing and habitat fragmentation caused by dams, barrages, and indiscriminate fishing.
For these reasons, 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, public awareness, and ongoing human pressure.
The following are the most significant measures taken to preserve the Ganges River Dolphin 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 and start 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 and the effect of fishing on larger-scale ecosystem health. This will provide the groundwork for long-term recovery plans for the Ganges dolphin population and regional freshwater ecosystem services.
The Ganges River dolphin’s home is in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Dolphins and humans like parts of the Ganges River where fish are plentiful, and the water current is slower.
This has resulted in fewer fish for people and increased dolphin fatalities due to getting caught in fishing nets inadvertently, a practice known as bycatch.
The Ganges River dolphin’s meat and oil, 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. As the top predator, river dolphins 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 due to 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 Rivers, 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 the 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 from protecting dolphins.
भारत का राष्ट्रीय जलीय पशु
भारत का राष्ट्रीय जलीय पशु शांत और सुंदर गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन है। पर्यावरण और वन मंत्रालय ने 18 मई, 2010 को इस लुप्तप्राय प्रजाति को भारत के राष्ट्रीय जलीय पशु के रूप में घोषित किया, जिससे इसे मोर, भारत के राष्ट्रीय पक्षी और बाघ, भारत के राष्ट्रीय पशु के बराबर मान्यता मिली।
गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन भारत, बांग्लादेश, नेपाल और भूटान में गंगा, ब्रह्मपुत्र और मेघना नदी प्रणालियों की एक मूल प्रजाति है, जो हिमालय की तलहटी से लेकर ज्वारीय क्षेत्र तक है।
जब गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन (प्लैटनिस्टा गैंगेटिका) की बात आती है, तो दो या दो से अधिक नदियों के संगम के पास और गहरे पानी को प्राथमिकता दी जाती है। यह एक मजबूत, लेकिन लचीला, शरीर पेश करता है और अधिकतम 150 किलोग्राम वजन का समर्थन कर सकता है। आम तौर पर, ये डॉल्फ़िन अंधी होती हैं, और ये असामान्य तरीके से अपने शिकार को पकड़ लेती हैं। वे एक अल्ट्रासोनिक ध्वनि उत्पन्न करते हैं जिसे उनके शिकार द्वारा उठाया जाता है। डॉल्फ़िन तब इस तस्वीर को अपनी स्मृति में संग्रहीत करता है और एक बार अपने शिकार को पकड़ने में सक्षम होता है।
डब्ल्यूडब्ल्यूएफ-इंडिया ने गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन को असाधारण चिंता की श्रेणी के रूप में मान्यता दी। प्रजातियों की जनसंख्या की स्थिति का तथ्यात्मक रिकॉर्ड बनाने और डॉल्फ़िन के वितरण क्षेत्र की पारिस्थितिक अखंडता की जांच करने के लिए 1997 में एक गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन संरक्षण कार्यक्रम शुरू किया गया था।
विभिन्न सरकारी विभागों, विशेष रूप से राज्य वन विभाग, साथ ही स्थानीय गैर-सरकारी संगठनों (एनजीओ) और वैज्ञानिकों, शोधकर्ताओं और शैक्षणिक संस्थानों के साथ मिलकर डब्ल्यूडब्ल्यूएफ-इंडिया यह सुनिश्चित कर रहा है कि कार्य योजना को क्षमता निर्माण के माध्यम से लागू किया जाए जबकि संरक्षण जागरूकता और शिक्षा गतिविधियों को अंजाम देना। वन विभाग की सहायता से हॉटस्पॉट की पहचान करने और प्रबंधन रणनीतियों को स्थापित करने के लिए लक्षित क्षेत्रों में जागरूकता बढ़ाने और हॉट स्पॉट की पहचान करने के लिए एक नदी निगरानी कार्यक्रम भी शुरू किया गया था।
इसके अलावा, विश्व वन्यजीव कोष-भारत ने डॉल्फ़िन के व्यवहार में नए दृष्टिकोण प्राप्त करने के लिए टोक्यो विश्वविद्यालय और भारतीय प्रौद्योगिकी संस्थान के साथ सहयोग किया है। यह सहयोग अत्याधुनिक तकनीक का उपयोग करता है जो डॉल्फ़िन को उनके सटीक पानी के नीचे की गति और सोनार रेंज तक ट्रैक करने की अनुमति देता है, यहां तक कि बहुत उथले पानी में भी।
यह भी दिखाया गया है कि एक श्रवण डेटा लॉगर डिवाइस किसी दिए गए क्षेत्र में डॉल्फ़िन की संख्या की गणना कर सकता है। डब्ल्यूडब्ल्यूएफ-मौजूदा भारत के अच्छी तरह से स्थापित नदी डॉल्फिन कार्यक्रम परिणामों से लाभान्वित होंगे, जिनका उपयोग कार्यक्रम के दायरे को तेज और विस्तारित करने के लिए किया जाएगा।
गंगा नदी की डॉल्फ़िन को भारत के राष्ट्रीय जलीय पशु के रूप में नामित करने के साथ, डब्ल्यूडब्ल्यूएफ-इंडिया सहित कई संरक्षण समूहों ने डॉल्फ़िन नदी को संरक्षित करने के अपने प्रयासों में प्रगति की है।
1996 से वर्तमान तक, बृजघाट और नरोरा के बीच गंगा के 165 किलोमीटर के खंड में नदी डॉल्फ़िन की संख्या चौगुनी से अधिक हो गई है, जिसका मुख्य कारण गंगा नदी डॉल्फिन संरक्षण कार्यक्रम (जीआरएडीपी) है।
समूह का मानना है कि डॉल्फ़िन का सामना करने वाले खतरे के बारे में सार्वजनिक जागरूकता के साथ-साथ अपने पर्यावरण की रक्षा के वास्तविक प्रयासों के साथ, इस प्रजाति को निकट भविष्य में विलुप्त होने से बचाया जा सकेगा।