Gangetic River dolphin declared city animal of Guwahati

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Assam's Guwahati became the first city in the country to have its own city animal with the district administration declaring the Gangetic river dolphin as its official mascot.

Gangetic River Dolphin locally known as ‘Sihu’ in Guwahati is on the verge of extinction. Less than 2,000 Gangetic river dolphins remain in the Brahmaputra River along Guwahati.

Background:

  • The district administration had organised online and offline voting among three protected creatures, which are on the verge of extinction, to decide the mascot.
  • Along with Gangetic river dolphin, the other two animals were black softshell turtle (Bor Kaso) and greater adjutant stork (Hargila).
  • These three animals are on the verge of extinction. The number of greater adjutant stork is less than 1,200 in and around Guwahati.
  • The three-month-long voting process attracted 60,003 participants to decide the city animal and Gangetic river dolphin received 24,247 votes.
  • The greater adjutant stork got 18,454 votes, and black softshell turtle was the choice of 17,302 people. In offline voting, 76 schools and colleges across Guwahati participated.

Gangetic River Dolpin

Gangetic Dolpin is a freshwater or river dolphin found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. They are also called as the ‘Tigers of Ganga’ as they enjoy the same position in Ganga that a tiger enjoys in the forest.

Scientific name: Platanista gangetica. 

Habitat and characteristic features : 

The Ganges river dolphin can only live in freshwater around the confluence of two or more rivers.

They  are essentially blind and hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds, which bounces off of fish and other prey, enabling them to “see” an image in their mind.

They are frequently found alone or in small groups, and generally a mother and calf travel together.  It weighs up to 150 kg. Males are smaller than females.

Protection status: 

International trade is prohibited by the listing  it on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

It is protected under the Indian Wildlife Act. IUCN has listed it as ‘endangered‘. It is also placed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. 

Threats due to human interaction : 

Poisoning of the water supply from industrial and agricultural chemicals has contributed to population decline of Gangetic dolphin.

Entanglement in fishing nets and hunting them for their oil and meat has caused significant damage to local population numbers.

The most significant issue is the building of more than 50 dams along many rivers has caused segregation of populations and a narrowed gene pool in which dolphins can breed.

Conservation Programme: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had launched Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Programme in 1997 to build a scientific database of their population status and also study their habitat quality of the dolphins’ distribution range. It has been officially declared as National Aquatic Animal of India.

Practice Questions
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