DERA GHAZI KHAN: Another rare Indus dolphin has been found dead at Taunsa Barrage.

The dolphin has been found dead adjacent to one of the closed gates of the barrage and this is the third rare marine mammal to have lost life in the last one month.

On Dec 9 last, a rare dolphin was found dead after being caught in a fishing net at Watawala super bund downstream of the Indus Taunsa Barrage.

Later, non-government organisations meant for conservation of marine life sought departmental action and the dolphin was handed over to the wildlife department for investigation.

Video of the second rare Indus dolphin went viral on social media but the officials failed to find it, according to a statement issued by the World Wildlife Fund. Another rare dolphin was found dead on Dec 31 under the bridge during gate closure of Taunsa Barrage. Earlier, a dolphin was rescued from DG canal.

This year had been a difficult one due to increase in mortality for the Indus Dolphin (Platanista minor) particularly for sub-population found in Taunsa-Guddu section of the river. Most incidents are linked to fishing activity being carried out under a contract system authorised by the fisheries department. The fishing has proved lethal for the dwindling population of this precious species.

Fishers who operate under licence unfortunately do not follow the terms and conditions regarding types of nets, material, mesh size and other associated protocols defined in the contract. There is also a lack of coordination between the wildlife department and the fisheries department over the issue.

NGOs and wildlife stakeholders say fish contractors should be taken on board in meetings to focus on these critical gaps so as to minimise the threats to the Indus dolphin which otherwise is on the verge of becoming extinct.

Protection of such rare mammals is all the more important in a country like Pakistan as this is considered flagship species of Indus River and indicator of health of the Indus River Ecosystem and its associated habitat.

The Indus river has already lost its mega fauna like Mugger crocodile, Gharial crocodile and otters. The Indus dolphin faces the same fate if timely action is not taken.

The recent incidents of deaths of rare dolphins have raised serious concerns about a lack of efforts for the conservation of aquatic life. Several government and non-government organisations claim to work for the conservation of mammals at Taunsa Barrage and get huge funds for the purpose but their efforts leave a lot to be desired.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2022



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