Giridhar Gopal in Bhubaneswar
Dolphins in Orissa's Chilika Lake are facing a bleak future due to unregulated tourism.
The Chilika lake, spread over the districts of Khurda, Puri and Ganjam covering 1,055 square kilometres, has about 50 to 55 Irrawady river dolphins [scientific name: Orcealla Brevirostris]. The lake swells to 1,165 sq km during the monsoon and recedes to 906 sq km in summer.
These types of dolphin range in length from two to 2.15 metres, Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society, said. "They have a low rate of breeding, and give birth once after a gestation period of nine months."
About 11 dolphins have been killed during 2001-02.
Tourist boats using the Lombardini engines, with 6-foot propellers, have killed at least two dolphins.
When the dolphins are sighted, these boats surround them. The panic-struck animals try to break out of the cordon, in the process getting injured, Mohanty said.
The lack of regulations for such tourist activity has made conservation efforts difficult. "We have sought the intervention of the forest department and state government to ensure protection of the dolphins," he said.
Apart from Chilika, Irrawady river dolphins are found in Songkhla Lake in Thailand.
Due to its endangered status, it has received the highest level of protection under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is also included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Since complete biological details are not yet available, it is listed as 'insufficiently known' in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red Data Book of Endangered Species of the world, he said.
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