The population of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River in Cambodia has been stable in the last four years, according to a new census report released on Thursday.
The census was conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Fisheries Administration of Cambodia.
The species’ population was estimated at 89 individuals in 2020, with a 95 percent confidence interval of 78-102, the report said, noting that in the 2017 census, the population was estimated at 92 individuals, with a 95 percent confidence interval of 80-106.
“Overall, these results suggest that the population has been stable if compared with the population of the last four years from 2017,” Seng Teak, country director of WWF-Cambodia, said in a press conference on the launch of the new census report.
He said the new census has provided information on the current status and demography of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River for long-term monitoring that will significantly contribute to enhancing protection and management.
Srun Limsong, deputy director-general of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration, said the Irrawaddy dolphin is considered Cambodia’s living national treasure and that the Fisheries Administration will further strengthen river patrolling to reduce threats to the survival of this species.
“The major threats facing the Mekong river dolphins include gillnet entanglement, illegal fishing practices such as electrofishing and poisonous bait with chemical substances, and overfishing due to human population growth,” he said at the event.
According to the report, the first official census in 1997 estimated that there were 200 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong, a figure that fell steadily due to bycatch and habitat loss until there were only 80 left in 2015.
The census covered 180 km of the main channel of the Mekong River in northeastern Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, the report said, adding that it was done in both directions with teams photographing dolphins and comparing the distinctive marks on their backs and dorsal fins against a database of known dolphins.
The Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin has been listed as critically endangered on the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species since 2004. Xinhua