New, 22 August 2014 (by Monsoon Tours, www.monsoontour.com)

Cambodian Irrawaddy dolphin disappearing from the Mekong River

The Irrawaddy dolphin inhabits coastal regions around Southeast Asia, but also the rivers of Indonesia, Myanmar and the Mekong (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). Once there were many thousands Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) living in the Mekong river from Phnom Penh up to the Lao border. In 2004 the World Conservation Union (IUCN) classified the Irrawaddy dolphin subpopulation in the Mekong River as “Critically Endangered”.

While in 2005 the total population (living between Kratie and the Lao border) was estimated at 127 individuals in 2005, now there remain only about 86 individuals. Three main reasons have been named for the declining: unsustainable new-born mortalities; accidental gillnet entanglement; and probably also dolphin-watching tourism.

The main viewing point for tourists in Cambodia is the Kampi pool, 15 km north of Kratie City. The pool has a size of only 1 x 1 km. Most Cambodian dolphins inhabit this small deep-water pool for most of their lives. There are 20 small motor boats for dolphin watching operating in this small area during dry season. Dolphin experts say that this number is far too high and might be one of the factors responsible for the high new-born mortality.

Therefore we encourage tourists to view the dolphins from land rather than hiring boats to view them.

The best season for viewing the dolphins is during the dry season (morning and evening time).

Monsoon Tours has been supporting the development of tourism in Kratie and the campaign to safeguard the Cambodian dolphins since 2002. In cooperation with the Cambodian Craft Cooperation a small historical museum about the Khmer kingdom of Sambupura (7-8the centuries) had been opened in 2003, and with support of a German funded development project the historical pagoda Roka Kandal has been reconstructed and local wicker-work women south of Kratie City have been supported (see www.mekong-dolphin.com).

Kratie can be reached within 6 hours coming from Phnom Penh (350 km), it is 3 hours (150 km) by car from the Lao border (Steung Treng).

Here you can find one of our tours in Kratie: www.monsoon-tours.com/en/pakete/kratie-und-irrawaddy-delphine.