Know more about our national aquatic animal: Gangetic Dolphins

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Gangetic dolphins are also known as South Asian river dolphins. The scientific name for this species is Platanista gangetica. These dolphins are generally found in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. They can also be found in the Indus river in Pakistan. Due to the increase in dams and irrigation projects, these dolphins face a strong threat of loss of their habitat. Let us learn some amazing and informational facts about these creatures.

Gangetic Dolphins

Gangetic Dolphins and Water Pollution

Since dolphins are mammals, they take in oxygen to stay alive. Oil spills and other chemical hazards have an effect on the life of Gangetic dolphins. Although the effect is not direct, it is enough to make them lose their habitat. Water pollution results in the growth of algae. As a result of this the oxygen level of that area is lessened. This gives rise to a ‘dead zone’ in the water. Due to this, fishes and mammals lose their habitat due to scarcity of food in that area. One of the major threats to these mammals is also the thinning of their gene pool. This is a direct result of irrigation projects decreasing the depth of river water.

Key Facts about Gangetic Dolphins

Gangetic Dolphins have very low visibility. They are practically blind. This does not deter their hunting skills. They generally flourish in slow-flowing rivers and densely populated areas. They like living in deep waters because it is easier to catch prospective hunt from there. They generally feed on fish and invertebrates. A recent survey by WWF revealed that there are less than 2000 individuals (dolphins) in a 6000 KM area. A type of Gangetic dolphins are also found in the Amazon river in Latin America. USA has declared these animals as an endangered species. They have a long pointed snout and their teeth in upper and lower jaws are fairly visible. Since these dolphins can only survive in fresh water, they are known as a representation of purity in India.

Importance of Gangetic Dolphins in the Indian Subcontinent

Gangetic Dolphins have been named the national aquatic animal of India. Another variant of the same species, the Indus Dolphin has been named the National mammal of Pakistan. Gangetic dolphins are the official animal of the city of Guwahati in Assam, India. However, these dolphins are on a list of India’s critically endangered animals list. A major reason for this is hunting and poaching of Gangetic Dolphins. The skin of these dolphins are usually very thick, their meat is used as a bait for catfish. The oils from these mammals is often used as liniment. Dolphin meat is also used as an aphrodisiac in certain areas. As a result of these dangers, the Indian Government has declared Gangetic Mammals as ‘non-human persons’. Capturing river dolphins for entertainment has been banned.

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