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Conservation group discovers rare Irrawaddy dolphin calf

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The latest discovery of newborn Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River in Kratie province last Thursday marks the sixth calf to be found this year, a provincial Fisheries Administration told The Post on Wednesday. WWF

Conservation group discovers rare Irrawaddy dolphin calf

A dolphin conservation group has revealed it recently found a newborn Irrawaddy dolphin swimming among adults in the Mekong River in Kratie province, the sixth calf to be discovered this year.

Mok Ponlok, provincial deputy director of the Fisheries Administration and head of the Irrawaddy dolphin conservation group, told The Post on Wednesday that his team encountered the calf, which was born around seven days previously, while patrolling the Mekong last Thursday.

The calf was swimming with five adult dolphins near Kampi village in Chitr Borei district’s Sambok commune.

“The new dolphin calf is the sixth to be recorded in 2019 from January to April,” he said.

The Irrawaddy dolphin nearly became extinct and is currently classified as endangered.

A recent joint study by national and provincial officials at the Fisheries Administration and WWF-Cambodia released this month found that the Irrawaddy dolphin population in Cambodia has increased from 80 to 92 over the past two years.

This is the first increase since records began in 1997.

A 1997 census found there were 200 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng provinces near the Cambodian-Lao border. But the use of banned fishing practices led to a sharp decline in numbers and in 2015 a conservation group found only 80 left.

With a more than 10 per cent increase in the Mekong river population, a government specialist said important steps had been taken to reduce the death rate, which allowed Irrawaddy dolphins to live to maturity and bear calves.

Only two Irrawaddy dolphins died in 2017, seven less than in 2015 when nine were found dead.

Cooperation between local communities, river guards and relevant authorities meant more effective patrols and crackdowns on illegal fishing, which was reflected in the reduced death rate, Ponlok said.

In the last two years, over 358km of illegal fishing nets were confiscated in the Irrawaddy dolphin’s living zone – twice the length of its habitat.

The presence of the newborn calf represented a new milestone in joint efforts to conserve the Irrawaddy dolphin in Cambodia and reflected the cooperation in conservation between the Fisheries Administration and conservation partners such as WWF-Cambodia, local authorities and communities, Ponlok said.

He said there were 92 Irrawaddy dolphins currently living in the Mekong in Cambodia, with around 60 to 65 – including the new calves – in Kratie province alone.

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