The Ministry of Tourism released a report on its new program to protect the Mekong
River Dolphin. Entitled "Journey of a Life", the report documents a trip
to the upper reaches of the Mekong River near the Lao border undertaken in April/May
1998 by a team of ministry officials led by Under Secretary of State Pou Sovachana.
The report notes that there may be as few as 60 dolphins remaining in the Mekong
in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces "when less than 40 years ago their were
hundreds if not thousands in this area."
The report notes that the dolphin population has been decimated by man-made pollution,
illegal fishing, grenades and gunfire.
The Ministry says that it "is determined to preserve this natural heritage and
will use the vehicle of tourism to educate and develop an awareness of the plight
of the dolphins."
Mekong River dolphins can weigh as much as 180 kgs and have a life span of up to
40 years. They can attain speeds of up to 42 kms per hour and travel in groups of
6 to 10 individuals. The report also notes that dolphins always have a smile.