STATUS OF IRRAWADDY DOLPHINS WHICH INHABIT THE MEKONG RIVER

The Mekong River Dolphin Research and Conservation Program began in 2001, in association with the Cambodian Department of Fisheries, Wildlife Conservation Society and James Cook University, Australia. This research began because there had been no previous dedicated studies on the Irrawaddy dolphin population inhabiting the Mekong River, the population appeared to be declining and is facing serious threats.

HOW DO WE STUDY THE DOLPHINS??

Research includes three main components:

BOAT SURVEYS

Boat surveys are undertaken from Kratie up to the Lao/Cambodian border – the northernmost extent of the dolphins' range in the Mekong River. All dolphins encountered are recorded and group size is estimated.

PHOTO-IDENTIFICATION

All dolphins which are sighted are photographed in order to identify individuals. The dorsal fin normally has distinctive nicks, notches and scratches, that allow it to be identified. The photographs below are of three dolphins which have been identified from Kampi Pool. If you look carefully you may be able to recognize some of these dolphins as you watch them today…

LANDBASED SURVEYS

Surveys are undertaken from land in order to observe the dolphins behaviour and which areas of the pool the dolphins are using most often. We are also watching the behaviour of the dolphins in response to boats, in order to make sure that dolphin-watching tourism boats are not harassing dolphin groups during their time in the deep water pools.

INTERVIEWS WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES

In order to conserve the Kampi dolphin group – and other groups which inhabit pools up to the Lao/Cambodian border, we are working with the local communities to understand their feelings towards the dolphins and how we are able to mitigate threats, such as accidental catch in fishing gears.

Local Cambodian next to a sign produced by Community Aid Abroad (CAA), advocating the conservation of Mekong River dolphins and fish stocks.

RESULTS TO DATE INDICATE:

ABUNDANCE

DISTRIBUTION

IMPORTANT HABITATS