Cambodia -- The Cambodian Government’s Fisheries Administration and WWF announced today that the Irrawaddy dolphin population in the Mekong River numbers just 89.
The number is a slight decline from the estimate of 92 in 2018, but shows that the population has stabilized in recent years after decades of precipitous decline.
Critically, the survey’s findings also indicate a positive survival rate of calves through to adulthood, with a 'recruitment rate' of 4.22% - the highest documented in the past decade - signalling an improving trend for the dolphin population.
“Although the survey confirmed that number of river dolphins in Cambodia has stabilized, the population size is still small, so stronger conservation action is urgently needed,” said Mr. Seng Teak, WWF Country Director.
The population is ranked as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, the highest international threat ranking for endangered species, and is restricted to a 180 km stretch of the mainstream Mekong River in Cambodia between Kratie and Khone Falls on the border with Laos.
The Irrawaddy dolphins are fully protected under Cambodia’s Fisheries Law. The dolphins, however, continue to face great danger. Gill nets, development of upstream dams, overfishing, and illegal fishing practices such as electrofishing are among major known treats to the survival of the species.
Concerted conservation action in recent years has halted the decline in the population, but more is required to ensure that the population expands.
The Fisheries Administration and WWF are committed to continuing to work together with the local communities and other partners to boost collective efforts to implement the recommendations of the 2020 population report.
These recommendations include enforcement of the fisheries law and the ban on illegal gill net use in the protected dolphin habitat, continued robust monitoring of the species population, and management of the Ramsar site in Stung Treng province to improve natural fish stocks for food and prey enhancement for both the local communities and the dolphins.
WWF's work to safeguard the river dolphins in Cambodia is part of its ambitious global River Dolphins Initiative.
Today the Bureau of Land Management posted a plan to move forward with potentially allowing a permit for seismic exploration on a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain this winter. In response, WWF issued the following statement from Margaret Williams, managing director, Arctic Program:
“The severe impacts of climate change and the loss of sea ice have already caused significant declines in the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population. Allowing seismic exploration will only further deepen their struggle.
“This intensive activity, and the noise and vibration that comes with it, will trample all over areas known to be important for female polar bears who are denning, adding one more dangerous risk to a population that has already faced severe loss of critical habitat.”
Today, Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2020 to permanently authorize and expand on the 2016 law that guides the U.S. government response to global wildlife trafficking.
In response, WWF issued the following statement from Carter Roberts, President and CEO:
“The END Wildlife Trafficking Act has helped stop illegal wildlife trade, disrupt criminal networks, and address one of the root causes of pandemics, like COVID-19. Reauthorizing and strengthening this law is vital, which is why there is such strong bipartisan leadership behind it. We thank Senators Coons and Portman for moving this issue forward. It is an essential one for the safety and security of our country and the world.”