River dolphins are dying at an alarming rate – quick response needed

Delfiny rzeczne

Many people, admiring vacation photos, do not realize that dolphins are residents of more than just the seas and oceans. Equally important for their ecosystems are river dolphins, which are an important natural link. Unfortunately, the survival of these animals is under threat, and recent international efforts to protect them underscore the urgent need for intervention.

Global Declaration for River Dolphins

In response to the drastic decline in river dolphin populations since the 1980s. In the 1970s. was as high as 73 percent, 9 countries whose waters contain these species have decided to sign a Global Declaration to protect them. Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Nepal and Venezuela are participating in this initiative. China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Peru and Pakistan are still in the process of joining the agreement. This declaration is in response to the threat these unique aquatic mammals are currently under.

River dolphins – will the Global Declaration change their fate?

The declaration came at a critical time for these animals, especially after the tragic events of September 2023. in Lake Tefé in the Brazilian Amazon, where intense drought has contributed to the deaths of 154 individuals. Although river dolphins are generally not bothered by the heat, this time the water level dropped so much that, combined with temperatures reaching 40°C, the animals had no chance of survival. In addition, the researchers also hypothesized that the high temperatures may have caused the algae to release a toxin into the river that attacks the central nervous system of many species, including dolphins. Climate change is making its mark in the next place and destructively affecting more species.

Daphne Willems of WWF stresses that the situation was extremely alarming, and that climate change is already threatening not only river dolphins, but entire ecosystems. The deaths of more than 150 individuals in this Brazilian lake, including endangered Amazonian dolphins (Inia geoffrensis), have become a symbol of the crisis facing nature.

River dolphins
Miguel Monteiro/Instituto Mamirauá

The Global Declaration aims to halt and reverse the decline of all river dolphin populations, create a network of protected and well-managed habitats, and promote research on these mammals. He calls for cooperation with local communities, as well as the elimination of unsustainable fishing practices. The declaration emphasizes that saving river dolphins is a shared responsibility that benefits both rivers and wetlands.

River dolphins affect the entire ecosystem

River dolphins, inhabiting major rivers in Asia and South America such as the Amazon, Irrawaddy, Ganges, Indus, Mahakam, Mekong, Orinoco and Yangtze, are key to maintaining ecological balance. Their role as predators cannot be overestimated, foraging shapes the entire ecosystem.

Six major species of river dolphins, namely the Amazonian dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), Indus river dolphin (Platanista minor), Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) and Indo-Pacific finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), are threatened to varying degrees. Most alarmingly, the seventh river dolphin, the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), was declared extinct in 2007.

Among the challenges facing signatories to the Declaration, taking action to protect these valuable species is key. For example, India and Pakistan have seen an increase in the Indus river dolphin population, and China’s Yangtze finless porpoise population has increased by 23 percent over the past five years as a result of the implementation of stringent conservation measures.

Efforts being made around the world give hope that the extinction of river dolphins can be stopped. Strengthening the network of protected areas, educating local communities, and international cooperation are very important to the success of these activities. The overall goal of the global declaration is to double the population of river dolphins in Asia and halt the population decline in South America.

It is important to realize that protecting river dolphins is not only a matter of concern for nature, but also to understand that the state of these species directly affects our lives and the ecosystems on which we depend. River dolphins are a symbol of the connection between man and nature.

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