Tessa’s log, Earthdate 16 April 2012
The fishing group saw Gangetic dolphin – estimated only to be ca. 15 individuals in Nepal, in 3 rivers (Kosi, Karnali and Naraini).
Fishing with endangered species
The fishing group had also had a spectacular sighting.
They had had no less than three sightings of at least two gangetic dolphin.
According to Wikipedia, there are two species of South Asian freshwater or river dolphin. The Indus river dolphin, and the Ganges river dolphin. The latter is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Platanista gangetica gangetica, the Ganges river dolphin, is brownish in colour with a thick stocky profile, large, thin flippers and tail and a long thin snout. Unlike its more commonly recognised bottle-nosed cousins, it has no dorsal fin. Instead, it simply has a small triangular lump on its back where one might expect a fin. Having adapted to the murky waters of the South Asian riverways, it has no crystalline eye lens and is almost blind.
Rather oddly, the Ganges river dolphin swims on its side, it’s flipper trailing in the mud at the bottom of the river. This is documented on the World Wildlife Organisation’s website as being thought to be a way to find food. I find myself picturing this strange habit in my mind and wondering if it may be more a response to its blindness however. The image reminds me of a blindfolded person reaching out a hand to touch the wall, guiding themselves along.
Due to the construction of dams throughout its natural habitat, the South Asian river dolphin population has suffered a dramatic decline. As Tessa notes in her log, it is estimated that there are potentially fewer than 15 individual dolphins left in Nepal, throughout the Kosi, Karnali and Naraini rivers. According to the WWF website, there are only 1,200-1,800 individuals altogether.
The sightings by Peter, Angus and Rajan were therefore rather incredible. JBS was positively stunned and even those of us who were new to the conservation narrative of Nepal couldn’t help but be heartened at the news.
Tessa bounded around ecstatic.
It was a hugely fun evening over dinner.
The only downside was that the dolphin had, of course, frightened off all the fish so the fishermen returned with little reward other than their dolphin sightings. Rajan had caught one single mid-sized fish which was cooked and shared out among the fishing team. But Peter, who sat and ate his share of the prize at a small table next to Tessa and I, was rather quiet.
Lesson no. 19: it just doesn’t taste as good if you haven’t caught it yourself