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Myanmar's river dolphins declining, face becoming endangered: report

Published by MAC on 2003-01-05

Myanmar's river dolphins declining, face becoming endangered: report

Agence France Presse - 05 Jan 03

Yangon - The number of dolphins living in Myanmar's Irrawaddy river has declined in recent years and the animals are now at risk of becoming an endangered species, according to a survey reported by the Myanmar Times.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) found just 37 dolphins in a 550 kilometre (340 mile) stretch of the river between Bhamo in northern Kachin state and Mingun near the ancient city of Mandalay, compared to 59 animals in a 1998 survey.

WCS zoologist Brian Smith told the semi-official weekly newspaper published Monday that it was surprising the survey conducted in November and December had found no evidence of Irrawaddy dolphins downstream from Mingun. "We had assumed we would find them between Mingun and Bogalay (about 120 kilometres or 75 miles southwest of the capital Yangon in the Irrawaddy delta)," he said.

"The population of the dolphins is isolated to a limited area," he said, adding that the survey indicated the mammals were at risk of becoming an endangered species in Myanmar.

Smith said the main threat to the dolphins were nets, the use of electrical charges to catch fish and mercury run-off from gold mines along the river. The zoologist said Irrawaddy dolphins were distinctive because they enjoyed a cooperative relationship with fishermen, indicating to them where fish could be caught in abundance.

The only other country where such a relationship existed between men and freshwater dolphins was in Brazil, he said.

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