One of the wildlife who needs our help in Myanmar: Irrawaddy Dolphin.
When you hear the word, I believe their smiley faces will pop up in your mind. If you feel it, yes, you’re correct. They are the Irrawaddy Dolphins. So, guess what? Are they oceanic dolphins or river dolphins?
Habitant: The Irrawaddy dolphin is a species of oceanic dolphin that belongs to a subpopulation found near the sea coast, in estuaries, and in rivers in parts of the Bay of Bangel and Southeast Asia. So, how can the Irrawaddy dolphin live in the Ayeyarwady River, Mekong in Cambodia, Lao PDR and the Mahakham in Indonesia?Originally, they lived in brackish water. Brackish water is water that is saltier than fresh water but not as salty as sea water. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water. So, they are an oceanic species that lives in rivers.
Appearance and life style: The Irrawaddy dolphin has a unique look among dolphins because they have bulging foreheads, short beaks, and they are dark blue to dark grey. They have small, blunt, rounded triangular dorsal fins and large flippers.The life span of the Irrawaddy dolphin is about 30 years. Now, there are roughly 70 dolphins left in the Ayeyarwady River and approximately 80-100 individuals left in the Mekong and Mahakam rivers. Their average sexual maturity is between seven and nine years old. The breeding season is between December and June. Their gestation period is 14 months. Usually, they give birth to one baby every two to three years. However, breeding is difficult because of habitat changes.
Condition: The Irrawaddy dolphin population is considered to be a vulnerable species. WWF identified that Irrawaddy dolphins are a flagship species and ecosystem predators. Even though they are not endangered species, a few limited numbers are found in Southeast Asia and some of the cases are pushing them to become endangered species.
Harms: The short-term gains of electrical fishing entail long-term devastation, particularly in the form of overfishing. The other issue is gill netting, which is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column, typically made of nylon. Mesh sizes are designed to allow fish to get only their head through the netting but not their body. The fish’s gills then get caught in the mesh as the fish tries to back out of the net.Those threaten the dolphins, which rely on a steady supply of fish to survive, as well as the overall ecosystem and the sustainability of local fishing livelihoods.
Adaptation: WCS Myanmar established an Irrawaddy Dolphin Protection Area from Mingun near Mandalay north to Kyauk Myaung in 2005, and the total span is 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the Irrawaddy River and now stretches for 74km.Within the new protected area, the use and size of gillnets is restricted to prevent dolphins from getting entangled where they sometimes drown. In addition, other methods like electric fishing and the use of dynamite and gold mining are strictly prohibited along with damage of habitat such as sandbars, grasslands, and vegetation. The result of WCS Myanmar and Myanmar’s Department of fisheries working together is that gillnet limits and other harmful fishing practices were banned in the along area in 2008.
Eco tourism: burmadolphins.com introduced the Living Irrawaddy Project, which is mainly support for Irrawaddy dolphins in Myanmar. They have three different types of packages and you can choose whatever you want. In the one-day package, first headed to Sin Kyun Village to explore along the Irrawaddy River to find dolphins and study the villagers’ lives in Sin Kyun Village. Trust me, if you are lucky, you will have a chance to see cooperative fishing: Irrawaddy dolphins helping fishermen fish and sharing the catch in a symbiotic relationship.