Living in only 9 deep pools, an estimated 85 critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the Mekong River population.
Formally, the range of the Irrawaddy dolphin extended through river, lake, and delta waters extending from Laos through Cambodia into Vietnam.
The range is now down to an isolated 190 km section of the Mekong River, and this is one of only three remaining freshwater populations of this species.
SDRP Director Randy Wells is in Kratie, Cambodia. He is advising on conservation efforts to save the Mekong River population of Irrawaddy dolphins.
Randy is among a small group of invited biologists and veterinarians gathered for a 3-day workshop near the pool with the largest group of dolphins.
In recent years, unsustainably high and unexplained calf mortality has occurred in this population, leading to international concern about the potential extinction of the Mekong River population.
Funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the purpose of the workshop was to try to identify the reasons for the dolphin deaths, and to design a data collection program to be the basis for conservation and policy decisions to improve protection.
Available information suggests that some causes of Irrawaddy dolphin mortality are due to illegal fishing operations, including gillnetting and electro-fishing.
A declaration signed by Cambodian governmental agencies and WWF as a result of the workshop established new efforts to reduce illegal fishing, to study the live animals in the field, and to more expeditiously collect and examine carcasses to try to learn about causes of mortality.
As a result of this workshop, an offer has been made to have Cambodian conservation researchers visit the U.S. to learn more about our techniques.
In the past, workers from Asia and Latin America have spent weeks or months with SDRP researchers. They were trained in field data collection and laboratory data processing techniques.
These protocols would be useful for developing a knowledge base about a species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin.
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