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To better protect the world endangered freshwater dolphins

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Mekong river dolphins in the Mekong along Kratie. Un Rithy

Cambodia is pushing the conservation of the country’s Mekong River dolphins not only to make it an attractive tourism product, but also to better protect the population of the world endangered mammal.

According to Neth Pheaktra, Spokesperson and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Environment, as the freshwater dolphins are increasingly attracting tourists, more preservation efforts and awareness building among the public to jointly protect them are necessary.

The Ministry of Environment, he continued, is leading a working group to file required documentations to propose Prek Kampi – the most common shelter for the dolphins – of the Mekong River in the northeastern Kratie province as the natural world heritage of UNESCO.

Though the prime purpose of the proposal is to better protect the endangered mammal, it could contribute to promoting the love for dolphins, attracting more tourists to the area, and improving the local economy.

Based on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), globally there are only six countries with freshwater dolphins and Cambodia has the most population of the mammal.

Cambodia’s dolphin conservation area stretches for 180 kilometres along the Mekong River, encompassing 146 square kilometres, from the border with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in Stung Treng province to Trong Island in Kratie province.

Tourist boat driver at Prek Kampi, Mr. Mann Chhun, said that the best time to see the dolphins playing in the river is from November to December as the water level is retreating by then.

Like the boat driver and many other locals, Ms. Roth Nang – a food vendor at the tourist site – depends her living on the welfare of the dolphins that bring tourists for their services.

As indicated in the record of the Fisheries Administration which is working with WWF to monitor the population of dolphins in the area, there were a total of between 80 and 92 dolphins in the Mekong River by 2017 – an increase of 18 dolphins compared to the previous year. Lim Nary – AKP

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