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1. The Punjab government has declared Indus River Dolphin — found only in the Beas — as the State aquatic animal.
2. rare aquatic animal would be the flagship species for the conservation of the Beas eco-system.
3. Indus river dolphins are one of only four river dolphin species and subspecies in the world that spend all of their lives in freshwater.
4. They are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, the Dolphins were forced to adapt to its only remaining habitat—rivers.
5. Only 1,816 exist today in the lower parts of the Indus River in Pakistan. Numbers declined dramatically after the construction of an irrigation system.
6. Most dolphins are confined to a 750 mile stretch of the river and divided into isolated populations by six barrages.
7. They have adapted to life in the muddy river and are functionally blind. They rely on echolocation to navigate, communicate and hunt prey including prawns, catfish and carp.
8. Endangered
9. Indus river dolphins are found only in Pakistan. Like other freshwater dolphins, the Indus river dolphin is an important indicator of the health of a river.
10. The main reason for the initial decline of the Indus river dolphin population was
i. The construction of barrages has resulted in habitat fragmentation. Dolphins are no longer found in the lower parts of the Indus River due to water extraction which dries up downstream channels for several months each year. Some dolphins that have moved downstream are unable to swim back upstream because of strong currents and barrages.
ii. Over 37,000 miles of irrigation canals lead to dolphins becoming stranded in the irrigation canals and because these instances usually go unreported and many Indus river dolphins die without being rescued.
i. Some communities who rely heavily on fishing think of the Indus River dolphin as competition for fish so poaching still occurs sporadically despite a ban on hunting.
i. Fishing nets are set for extended hours and often overnight. Dolphins get trapped in the nets and drown. This accidental capture of the dolphins is known as bycatch.
i. Untreated sewage from communities that reside along irrigation canals and the banks of the Indus River directly pollute the water. Washing clothes and utensils in the river also cause pollution. Industrial pollution has allegedly caused a massive quantity of fish deaths in urban areas, which affects the Indus river dolphins’ food supply. Pesticides from sugarcane and cotton crops also pollute the riverbank.