In a welcome development, Cambodia celebrated the birth of an Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) calf in Kratie province, bringing the total number of births to eight in the first ten months of this year. The birth was reported on November 4.

Unfortunately, during the same period, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also reported the loss of four adult dolphins.

The heart warming sighting of the latest dolphin calf occurred in the Anlong Kampi dolphin conservation area. The newborn was observed swimming alongside six adult dolphins in the vicinity.

The ministry is also pleased to note that upon initial observation, no adverse behaviour was observed from the adult dolphins towards the newborn calf. Promptly, teams from the Fisheries Administration and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ensured the well-being of the newly arrived dolphin calf.

“The tally for this year so far reveals a total of eight dolphin calves alongside four unfortunate fatalities. This contrasts with the figures from January to December in 2022, where Cambodia marked the arrival of six new dolphin calves but also faced the loss of 11 adult dolphins,” the ministry explained.

Ouk Vibol, the director of the Fisheries Conservation Department at the ministry, expressed his delight on November 5 on behalf of the department in celebrating the arrival of the dolphin calf.

“We continue to work diligently to minimise dolphin mortality, particularly focusing on reducing fatalities caused by nets and electrical shocks,” he stressed.

He noted that as relevant authorities worked to reduce the use of illegal fishing equipment, it resulted in dolphins having the freedom to swim in the river and breed. Consequently, dolphin calves now also enjoy good health and safety.

Seng Teak, the WWF country director, emphasised that every new baby dolphin was the result of a collaborative endeavour involving all relevant parties. This achievement was made possible through the guidance of the government and the ministry, in collaboration with sub-national administrations, relevant authorities and partner organisations.

He stated that these collective efforts yielded positive results, especially in the successful crackdown on electrofishing and illegal nets.

“As a conservationist and a strategic partner of the government, we documented the birth of this dolphin calf. The news is positive, uplifting and offers hope,” he stated.

Irrawaddy dolphins are considered national treasures in Cambodia and belong to the six most critically endangered freshwater dolphin species worldwide.

According to the WWF, only three rivers in Southeast Asia, namely the Mekong in Cambodia, the Ayeyarwady in Myanmar and the Mahakam in Indonesia, provide habitats for these rare dolphins.