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  Yahoo News 8 Jun 06
Population of endangered dolphin rises
By Paul Garwood, Associated Press Writer

PlanetArk 8 Jun 06
The Endangered Indus River Dolphin

PAKISTAN: The endangered Indus river dolphin has dramatically increased in numbers in a small section of the Indus in Pakistan but the animals remain very rare and in grave danger, a scientist said on Wednesday.

A survey carried out in March this year showed their numbers in Pakistan had risen to 1,331 from about 1,100 in 2001, most of them concentrated in one small section of the river.

Here are some facts about the Indus river dolphin:

- The unique, blind dolphin is one of the world's four freshwater dolphin species, and one of its rarest mammals.

- The dolphins were once common throughout the Indus river system. Today they occur in only a fifth of their previous range, in small populations, fragmented by barrages built across the river since the 1930s.

- Most are confined to a 200-km (125-mile) stretch of the river between barrages in the north of Sindh province.

- They sometimes carry their young on their backs, above the surface of the water. Although Indus dolphins prefer deep water, they can live in water as shallow as 1 metre (3.3 feet) because of their ability to swim on their side.

- Grey-brown in colour, fully grown adults are 1.5 to 2.5 metres (4.9 to 8.2 feet) in length and weigh up to 90 kg (200 lb). Males are smaller than females.

- Maturing at about 10 years, they are estimated to have a life-span of at least 28 years.

- The dolphins are functionally blind, using tiny remnant eyes only to tell day from night. They rely on sonar to find fish, shrimp, and other prey in the murky depths.

- The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says the biggest threat to their survival has been the construction of dams and barrages that have fragmented the population and reduced the amount of available habitat.

(Sources: Reuters; Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdsc.org); World Wildlife Federation (www.wwfpak.org)

Yahoo News 8 Jun 06
Population of endangered dolphin rises
By Paul Garwood, Associated Press Writer

The population of an endangered species of dolphin living in Pakistan's Indus River has increased in recent years, but the animal remains at high risk of extinction, the scientist leading a conservation project said Wednesday.

The blind, dorsal fin-less Indus River Dolphin, which occurs only in Pakistan, increased in number from 1,100 in 2001 to the current number of around 1,330, according to results of a March-April 2006 survey released in the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday.

But the fresh water mammal could still slide into extinction if more isn't done to protect its habitat, said Gail Braulik, a dolphin biologist and the British lead scientist of the project, part of the Environment Ministry's Pakistan Wetlands Program.

"A ban on hunting them 30 years ago may have had a positive impact down the line, but part of the Wetlands Program is to investigate ways of relocating dolphins from high population density areas to those of low density," Braulik told The Associated Press.

Researchers found that excessive use of water for agriculture, the spilling of pesticides and other industrial chemicals into the Indus River as well as poor water conservation practices had reduced the dolphins' habitat.

Some 1,200 of the long, narrow-snouted dolphins, including 150 calves, live in a 125 mile stretch of the river between water barges in the central Pakistani towns of Guddu and Sukkur, almost double the 725 spotted in the same area during the 2001 survey.

The remaining dolphins live within four other barged, shallower sections of the Indus River, some 620 miles of which was surveyed by scientists plying the waters in river boats.

Environment Minister Malik Amin Aslam said plans to build five dams by 2016 to collect increasing amounts of thawing northern glacier water flowing into the Indus River will improve the dolphins' environment.

"Glacial melt has gone up 25 percent because of global warming and we are wasting most of this water," Aslam told The Associated Press. "Improving storage capacity instead of flushing the water away will see more available in the river and better water for the dolphins."

The Indus River Dolphin remains one of the world's most endangered species and unlike most other dolphins that live in the ocean, it lives in freshwater. Its evolution saw it develop without eye lenses, leaving it effectively blind. But the animal's highly sensitive sonar abilities allow them to pass easily through the Indus' hazy, silt-filled waters and to detect and catch fish and crustaceans.

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