By Nazrul Islam;
Dolphin, one of our marine mammal friends, deserves not only an attention but also a good care and respect to survive because stability of their societies are integrally tied to the health of the planet Earth.
Since their existence matters in human survival, there are reasons to take the matter serious. Scientific evidences show that whales (a type of dolphin) and dolphins are highly intelligence as human. The underwater mammals from different species can recognise them in mirror; they live in complex societies and play for fun. Beside those facts, dolphins grieve for the death of their fellows and pass cultural information between individuals.
Therefore, it is a moral obligation on the part of human to protect the dolphins from extinction as over the past years human interventions, undertaken without considering the consequences, caused loss of their habitats, migration paths and breeding patterns.
According to WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a UK-based charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins, humans have done enormous damage to the planet including culling millions of whales and wiping out up to 90% of some populations.
“Yet few people, let alone governments, are aware that recovering whale populations can help fight the damage we cause,” said the charity in a campaign adding that the whales play a vital role in the marine ecosystem where they help provide up to 50% of our oxygen, combat climate change and sustain fish stocks.
Bangladesh, a Himalayan delta criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers and their tributaries, once witnessed numerous dolphins in its river systems, mostly led to the Bay of Bengal to the south. But different studies found that the dolphin population has dwindled thanks mostly to lack of awareness in this part of the world.
Bangladesh as a party to United Nations Convention on Bio Diversity, one of three major conventions agreed globally in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it is an obligation for the South Asian country to conserve the marine mammals like other engendered species. Bangladesh’s Rio Project has emphasised pragmatic bio-diversity conservation.
At least 10 species of marine and six species of freshwater dolphins are available in Bangladesh. Conservationists say of them, Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins, which are available in the rivers of Sundarban mangrove forest, are most endangered.
Conservation of dolphins is not old in Bangladesh despite the fact the global concern for these aquatic mammals had been expressed since long ago. After frantic campaigns by the environmental activists, the government in early 2012 declared a stretch of 32 kilometres area in the Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuary, to protect the graceful endangered creatures of the nature.
According to a government notification, about 12 km from Ghagmari check-post of Chandpai Range to Karamjal check-post of the forest through Dhangmari canal and Pashur River, 15 km from Jongra check-post to Andharmari check-post through Mrigamari check-post and five km from Dudhkhali check-post to Supati canal through Bemara canal have been declared as the wildlife sanctuary for the underwater mammals.
A project undertaken for the conservation of the dolphins is being implemented by the government with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme. A census is underway under the project to determine the number of dolphins in the Sundarbans sanctuary. The first dolphin census conducted by Wildlife Conservation Society in 2006 found 225 Gangetic dolphins and 451 Irrawaddy dolphins in the mangrove forest.
The second decision for announcing dolphin sanctuary came in the following year. The government declared three sanctuaries for them only in late 2013 in the northern Pabna district. They are; Nagarbari-Mohanganj Dolphin Sanctuary, Najirganj Dolphin Sanctuary and Shilanda Nagdemra Dolphin Wildlife Sanctuary stretched on a total of 578.11 hectare area.
The government notification implies that the Wildlife Act of 2012 will be applied for the preservation of the sanctuaries. Violation of the law in these areas is punishable with six months of prison term and substantial about of financial penalty.
Despite the fact that the government announced dolphin sanctuaries, there has still been a lack of awareness among the people as to why conservation of these mammals is so important nowadays. Therefore, there should be a massive campaign for protection of the mammals and Bangladesh must hold fast the global campaign for conservation of dolphins living in its waters. There are few suggestions that Bangladesh can do to protect the endangered creatures.
- Since pollution is a great threat to all ocean and riverine species, the authorities must take effective measures to stop polluting rivers and clean up the polluted areas.
- The marine mammals heavily rely on their hearing sense to hunt (for food) and communicate with their fellows. And sound pollution in their habitants threatens their survival. Therefore, it is urgently needed to stop the sources of such pollution. Plying of engine boats, cargo vessels and goods-laden ships that crates much sounds should be diverted to other routes. Engine-boats and ships having old engines can be replaced by sophisticated ones.
- Fishermen normally do not target the dolphins, but the animals get trapped in fishing nets and are killed. Fishing in dolphins’ sanctuary should be strictly prohibited. The fishermen must be made aware about the conservation of the dolphins.
- The fishermen should be compensated properly and given training for alternative jobs for their survival.
- One of the major threats of dolphins’ habitat loss is rise of salinity levels, therefore measures should be taken to lessen the salinity intrusion in the river system.
- Bangladesh should properly observe the international day of Dolphin Conservation on April 14 to raise awareness among mass people.