The Gangetic Dolphin is India’s new national aquatic animal. The idea is to increase the visibility of this endangered species on the conservation map. The 100 million year old species faces the danger of extinction in 10 more years.
The Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) is to Ganges what the salmon has been to Thames. Only the comeaback of this lovely creature in desirable numbers can convince environmentalists that the ‘Mission Clean Ganga’ project has been a success, according to environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh. Dophins can’t be bred in captivity.
The fresh-water dolphin is found in rivers originating from the Himalayas.
I remember making a long journey to Bhagalpur in Bihar to have a look at them in the Ganges. Another time, I went looking for its cousin — the Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) — in Orissa’s Chilika lake, and came back absolutely thrilled after the rare sighting. The adorable wild creatures have a will of their own unlike captive dolphins (e.g. the pink ones in Sentosa Island of Singapore), who are trained to dance, play and talk.
India currently has around 2,300 Gangetic dolphins. The World Wide Fund for Nature says its population is declining at a rate of 10 per cent annually. The environment ministry’s wish to replicate the ‘salmon-Thames’ success story with a Rs 15,000 crore project is laudable. It would be wonderful to see the dolphins back where they belong.