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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - River dolphin deaths might be linked to gill net fishing: officials

River dolphin deaths might be linked to gill net fishing: officials

AN Irrawaddy dolphin that was pregnant with twins was found dead on Saturday in Kampong Cham province, marking the second recorded river dolphin death this month, a conservation expert told the Post on Monday.

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia’s Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, said the dolphin found on Saturday weighed 102 kilogrammes.

“We are very sorry because when we operated on her we found two children weighing about 1 kilogram each in her body,” he said.

“Generally, Cambodia’s Irrawaddy dolphins give birth between November and halfway through December, but this one is very strange,” he added.
He lamented the death of the dolphin, which he said could be attributed either to climate change or to illegal gill net fishing in an officially designated dolphin area.

On January 18, a young dolphin weighing about 10 kilogrammes was found dead in Stung Treng province in a case that officials have said might also be linked to illegal gill net fishing.

Teak Seng, country director of the conservation group WWF, said Monday that he had sent samples from the dead animal to Germany for analysis.

“We suspect that one or two Irrawaddy dolphins have died because of gill net fishing this year,” he said.

The issue of dolphin deaths became a point of contention between the government and WWF last year after the conservation group issued a report stating that Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River were on the verge of extinction. The report stated that 88 Irrawaddy dolphins had died since 2003, 60 percent of which had been under two weeks old and had succumbed to a bacterial disease.

At the time of the report’s release, Touch Seang Tana dismissed its findings as “all lies” and said his own research indicated that the dolphin population had grown in recent years.

He then threatened to file false information charges against WWF in June, though no charges were ever filed.



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