Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Browse Old Articles


5 critically endangered Indus River dolphins found dead in Pakistan

10/02/2011 11:29:33 Call for fishing to be banned in reserve area

February 2011: After the discovery of five dead dolphins in Pakistan last month, WWF has hosted a meeting to work out an action plan to help prevent further deaths. Four of the dolphins - three females and a male - were found at Ali Wahan, a small village on the banks of River Indus near Rohri. The fifth dolphin, also a female, was found floating near upstream Guddu Barrage. Although two dolphins were buried, post-mortems on the remaining three, were carried out by WWF to collect samples for poison testing.

FISHING PROBLEMS: Indus dolphins are victim to
unsustainable fishing practices

Circumstantial evidence suggests the animals were killed either by becoming entangled in nets or by chemical poisoning. The conclusions of the analysis of the post-mortem samples is still pending.

The habitat of the Indus river dolphin has been reduced to one fifth of its historical range and is degraded primarily due to a shortage of water, uncontrolled use of agrochemicals in farming around the river and discharge of untreated industrial wastewater.

New fishing system poses greater risk
Unsustainable fishing practices represent a further risk - and these have increased since the introduction of a ‘fishing card system' in the river Indus. Previously, contractors were held responsible for any illegal fishing in their allotted areas and the accountability kept them from indulging in unsustainable fishing practices. Now, for just 100 Pakistan rupees (about 80p), anyone in the area can acquire a fishing card and indulge in the activity without anyone being held accountable in case a violation occurs.

Speaking at the meeting, Ghulam Mustafa Gopang, of the Sindh Fisheries Department, shared his concerns about the fishing card system and said that it needs to be replaced or improved for better accountability.


The Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is a global priority species of freshwater cetaceans. It is an endangered species and is endemic to the Indus river system in Pakistan. The Indus River Dolphin is the second most endangered obligate freshwater dolphin species, falling only after the ‘functionally extinct' Yangtze river dolphin. The demise of the Yangtze river dolphin is a tragic reminder of the creatures' sensitivity to human activity around and its habitat, and the need for its formal protection and conservation on a national level.

The Indus river dolphin being a flagship species is an indicator for the biological health of aquatic and terrestrial environment adjoining the Indus river.

In 2001, according to the dolphin survey conducted by WWF - Pakistan, the dolphin population was 725 in the reserve. The number increased to 1,293, as discovered in a dolphin survey conducted in 2006. WWF - Pakistan is set to conduct its latest survey next month.

The increased number of fishermen in the area has put a tremendous stress on fishing resources. Since dolphin is a mammal and is not consumed eaten, it has become a victim of illegal netting and chemical poisoning that fishermen use to maximise catch. After the results of the post-mortem testing are known, Uzma Noureen, of the Indus River Dolphin Conservation Centre, said a specific agenda against the use of both chemical poisons and pesticides would be pursued.

But Taj Muhammad Sheikh, of Sindh Wildlife Department, insisted that fishing should be banned in the dolphin reserve area, which stretches to about 190km.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

To post a comment you must be logged in.

New user? Register here


Click join and we will email you with your password. You can then sign on and join the discussions right away.