A team from the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia spotted an Irrawaddy dolphin calf at the high point of the Anlong Kampi Irawaddy dolphin conservation area in Kratie province – the first calf to be sighted there this year.

Mok Ponlok, director of the FiA’s Kratie cantonment, told The Post that on March 1, the team conducted photo identification surveys along the Mekong dolphin habitats and found the new calf in Kampi village of Chitr Borei district’s Sambok commune.

He said the calf was "swimming happily" with the mother and accompanied by about seven or eight adult dolphins.

According to Ponlok, international experts who received images of the calf agreed that it was likely born around February 27 or 28. It is estimated to weigh around 9-10kg and is 1m in length and appears to be in good health.

"We are really pleased with the presence of this Irrawaddy dolphin calf because it is the first recorded Irrawaddy dolphin calf in 2023,” he said.

In early February, fisheries communities and river guards reported finding a new dolphin calf in Anlong Vien, about 150m from Anlong Kampi in Sambok commune, according to Anlong Kampi fisheries community chief Thon Tharong on March 2.

“In early February, the river guards and I were patrolling and we spotted a newborn dolphin swimming in the water … with a group of about six or seven other dolphins. But at the time I wasn't able to take pictures for evidence,” Tharong told The Post.

WWF country director Seng Teak told The Post that his team based in Kratie province had also received reports of a new Irrawaddy dolphin calf being spotted in early February by the fisheries communities and river guards in the area, but the local and international experts who were surveying and collecting data on Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins had not been able to find it or take any pictures of it.

“However, our team will continue to search for the calf to take its picture as evidence and announce it to the public. For this year, so far, the first confirmed sight of the calf was on March 2. It is three-days-old and its presence is really making us very excited,” he said.

He added that its presence reflected the joint protection efforts between relevant institutions and units at the national and sub-national levels, and especially the local communities.

According to Teak, since Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered measures to prevent all kinds of fisheries crimes in the Mekong River dolphin protection and conservation area in early January, fisheries crime along the Mekong River in Stung Treng province and Kratie province has fallen remarkably.

“What I have noticed is that from January to April, our team is usually reporting about deaths of Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins. But this year, we have received only happy news, the new calf, while there are no reports of any dolphin deaths yet. This is what we all must congratulate everyone for and put more effort into making our dolphin population increase again,” he said.

According to the 2020 Irrawaddy dolphin census, there were only 89 living in the Mekong River from Kratie to Stung Treng at that time due to threats to their habitat and the effects of illegal fishing and the construction of hydropower dams upstream from Cambodia.