As Freshwater Dolphin Day was observed on October 23 in Colombia, Cambodian officials and wildlife conservationists expressed their strong commitment to protecting the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin through both art and a scientific approach.

At the event, a song by famous Cambodian singer Meas Soksophea, entitled Dolphin, My Sweetheart, was played. The song featured her love for the dolphin and called for its protection, according to a joint press release by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Fishery Administration (FiA) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia.

Soksophea said she was proud to have sung the song to protect the species, which is regarded as a living national treasure.

“It is our greatest pride to protect and participate in the conservation of Mekong dolphins. This protection is for the sake of the natural environment and to attract more tourists to Cambodia,” she was quoted as saying in the press release.

Ministry spokesperson Im Rachna said that at the event in Colombia, Cambodia showcased the potential of its fishery resources and its commitment to protecting the invaluable species.

“The government pays attention to the protection of dolphins and hydrological resources in the region, in line with the government’s Pentagonal Strategy and with the support of relevant stakeholders, including artists, local communities, scientists and development partners,” she said.

According to WWF, Cambodia is one of only 14 countries in the world where freshwater dolphins still live, underscoring their strong commitment to protecting this critically endangered species.

Seng Teak, country director of WWF, said it was a great honor for everyone to take part in protecting and supporting the conservation effort.

Earlier this month, WWF initiated an online petition titled “10K Voice For Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphin”, calling for support.

The marine mammals, scientifically named Orcaella brevirostris, are one of six existing species of the river type. They are categorized as a Critically Endangered Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

It was reported that only about 89 adult individuals were found in a 2020 survey, spanning a 180km stretch of the Mekong River in the Kingdom’s Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

According to WWF, the species has faced threats such as drowning in gill-nets, disruptions to river flow from upstream dams, overfishing and the use of damaging fishing practices like electrofishing.

It called for three actions: support the local community by visiting community-based ecotourism in the Mekong, stand strong against purchasing illegal endangered sea creatures and learn and share knowledge and information about them.

“Together, let’s protect the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin and promote the intertwined relationship of natural ecosystems and human well-being, as well as harmonious living with nature,” the petition said.