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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Report citing pollutants' threat to dolphins draws furious govt rebuke

Report citing pollutants' threat to dolphins draws furious govt rebuke

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Photo by: AFP

A new report asserts that pollution has pushed the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins ''to the brink of extinction''.

A NEW report that pollution in the Mekong River was in part responsible for the deaths of 88 Irrawaddy dolphins since 2003 prompted a harsh rebuttal from a government official, who on Thursday dismissed the findings as "all lies".

The report, released Thursday by the international conservation group WWF, found that pollution in the Mekong River had pushed local Irrawaddy dolphins "to the brink of extinction".

It said 60 percent of the dead dolphins were calves under two weeks old that had died of a bacterial disease.

"This disease would not be fatal unless the dolphin's immune systems were suppressed, as they were in these cases, by environmental contaminants," said Dr Verne Dove, the author of the report and a veterinarian at WWF Cambodia, in a press release.

The reported said the population of the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin, which has been listed as a critically endangered species since 2004, totals between 64 and 76 members.

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia's Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, said, however, that the report was false.

"What they said was all lies," he said. "It's big trouble - they [the WWF] should resign. They should leave Cambodia."

Touch Seang Tana said the dolphin population had increased between 2000 and 2007, a period during which, he said, 120 dolphins died and 160 were born.

He dismissed as incorrect the report's assertion that researchers had discovered "toxic levels" of pesticides and environmental contaminants while analysing the dead dolphin calves. The pollutants, the report said, "could pose a health risk to human populations living along the Mekong that consume the same fish and water as the dolphins".

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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