Dolphins better off in Chilika - Survey reveals dip in death toll of Irrawaddy school

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By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 27.02.08

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 27: They are friendly and funny and are perhaps finally protected — as the population of Irrawaddy dolphins have witnessed few casualties in the past year along the Orissa coast.

Chilika Development Authority, which conducted a census of the rare dolphins along the brackish water lagoon, claimed that the number of casualties of this endangered species has dipped due to “effective” conservation measures.

Their claim: Only five casualties were reported during 2007-08.

The development panel’s chief executive, Sudarsan Panda, while releasing the survey results, conceded today that among the five deaths, two were natural, one was caused by shark bite and the remaining two were due to mishaps caused by mechanised boats.

Earlier, as many as 15 dolphins had died during 2003-04, 11 in 2004-05 and eight between 2005-06. The toll further reduced to five in 2006-07.

Claiming that casualty percentage in Chilika lake was less than 4 per cent, much less than the international figure, Panda added this was possible due to sustained measures undertaken in collaboration with the local community.

Panda said an awareness programme, training and sensitisation sessions among local fishermen and boatmen had a positive impact on efforts to conserving the rare marine species.

Efforts are now on to reduce the casualty rate to 2 per cent.

The recent census, carried out by the development authority in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and Japan-based National Research Institute of Fisheries Engineering, Bombay Natural History Society and state wildlife wing on February 26, revealed that Chilika has 138 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.

This is perhaps the largest dolphin population in any lagoon across the world.

Panda said for the first time in the world A-Tag Logger electronic sensors’ method developed by Japanese scientists was used, along with visual method, for the survey.

The lake (largest in brackish water lagoon in Asia) was divided into 18 zones for the survey and the method of “line transect” was adopted by a team of three experts equipped with GPS in each zone. Also, the lake has shown a marginal increase in population (from 131 in 2006 and 135 in the last census to 138 in this one). Out of the total 138 dolphins, 115 are adults, 17 adolescents and six calves. Some 60 adults were spotted in the outer channel followed by 32 in the central sector and 23 in the southern sector.