gangetic dolphin

Mysterious Gangetic Dolphin & Indus River Dolphin: A Comparison (2022)

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In the Indian subcontinent, the Gangetic dolphin is an endangered freshwater or river dolphin found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in Bhutan, India, and Nepal. These dolphins are often referred to as “susu” due to the sound they produce.

The Indian river dolphins, one of the most endangered animals in the world, are on the brink of extinction. There are only about few thousands left in the wild. These shy and elusive creatures are found in the Ganges and Indus river deltas in India and Pakistan. They are threatened by pollution, habitat loss, and entanglement in fishing nets. Without urgent action, these beautiful creatures will be lost forever.

In 1801, the Ganges river dolphin was officially discovered. Ganges river dolphins previously inhabited the river systems of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. However, the species is gone from most of its original ranges.

The Gangetic Dolphin and the Indus River Dolphin are classified as two subspecies of South Asian River dolphins (Platanista gangetica). This article will discuss these species, including a map showing the distribution of Gangetic Dolphins and Indus River Dolphins in India. You can also download the map from our Telegram channel from the link given at the end of this article.

The South Asian River Dolphin

  • The South Asian river dolphin, Platanista gangetica, It is currently composed of two subspecies that occur in geographically separate, adjacent freshwater river systems:
    • Indus river dolphin
    • Gangetic river dolphin 
  • The Indus River dolphin, which is endemic to the Indus River system, principally in Pakistan, Until recently, dolphins were believed to be endemic to Pakistan. However, a viable population of Indus dolphins was discovered in the Harike wildlife sanctuary in Punjab as well as in the lower Beas River in 2007. And the Ganges river dolphin inhabits only the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and nearby Karnaphuli-Sangu River systems of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
  • The Indus and Ganges river dolphins each number only a few thousand individuals, have suffered extensive declines in distribution, and are both listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • Indus and Ganges river dolphins look very different to most other dolphins and are superficially similar to each other.
  • Indus and Ganges River dolphins are classified as two subspecies of South Asian River dolphins (Platanista gangetica).
  • This obligate freshwater dolphin is categorized as endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a decline in both its range and population size.
Gangetic Dolphin
Gangetic Dolphin

Indus River Dolphin

Until recently, these river dolphins were believed to be endemic to Pakistan. However, a viable population of Indus dolphins was discovered in the Harike wildlife sanctuary in Punjab and the lower Beas River in 2007. Since its discovery, the Punjab government, in association with WWF-India, has been researching the habitat use, current distribution, and population of Indus river dolphins.

Now the state of Punjab is about to start the Census of one of the world’s most threatened cetaceans, the Indus River dolphin.

Indus river dolphin
Indus river dolphin
indus river system
indus river system

Indus River Dolphin

  • Scientific Name: Platanista gangetica minor
  • IUCN status: Endangered.
  • They live for at least 30 years and grow to over 2 metres in length.
  • Indus river dolphins are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the Tethys sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, these dolphins were forced to adapt to their only remaining habitat: rivers.
  • Today, the Indus River dolphin can only be found in the lower parts of the Indus River in Pakistan and the River Beas, a tributary of the Indus River in Punjab, India.
  • These dolphins have adapted to life in the muddy river and are functionally blind. 
  • The Indus River dolphin relies on echolocation to navigate, communicate, and hunt their prey, including prawns, catfish, and carp.
  • Indus River dolphin has been declared as the national mammal of Pakistan and the state aquatic animal of Punjab, India.
Indus river Dolphin
Indus river Dolphin

Gangetic Dolphin

The Ganges river dolphin is discontinuously distributed in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of South Asia from the base of the Himalayan foothills to the Bay of Bengal.

Extensive population fragmentation has resulted from the widespread construction of barrages. Although there is no credible estimate of dolphin abundance for the Ganges system, the largest subpopulation probably occurs between the Farakka Barrage, near the India/Bangladesh border, and barrages in the mainstream and Kosi, Son, Gandak, Ghaghara, and Yamuna tributaries, as well as their large affluents, which include the Sanctuary in the Ganges mainstream.

gangetic dolphin
gangetic dolphin

Gangetic Dolphin

  • The Gangetic dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
  • Gangetic dolphins prefer deep waters in and around the confluence of rivers. 
  • These gangetic dolphins also act as an indicator of the health status of the freshwater ecosystem, as they can only thrive in freshwater ecosystems.
  • The Gangetic dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal.
  • They are essentially blind.
  • These Ganges Dolphins hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds from their mouths. These sound waves bounce off of fish and other prey, enabling the Gangetic Dolphins to see an image in their mind. That’s why Gangetic Dolphin is also called “susu”.
  • IUCN Status: Endangered.
  • CITES Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule 1.
  • The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bihar is the only sanctuary for the conservation of Gangetic dolphins in India.
Common NameSusu
Scientific NamePlatanista gangetica gangetica
PopulationLess than 1800 (1200 to 1800)
LengthUp to 2.70 m (Female), 2.12 m (Male)
Weight150-170 Kg.
StatusEndangered (IUCN)
Gangetic Dolphin Features

Gangetic Dolphin Conservation Status

Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972Schedule I.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)Appendix I
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)Appendix II  

Gangetic river dolphins in Assam are declining as a result of human factors.

  • The endangered Gangetic river dolphin may be found in Assam‘s Brahmaputra and its tributaries, Kulsi and Subansiri. However, local communities and experts have seen a population reduction.
  • Dolphins in the Kulsi River are being harmed by mechanised sand mining on the river’s banks. Dams were built in numerous areas of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, cutting across dolphin habitats and limiting access to prey.
  • Dolphins are almost extinct in the Barak river system, with just a few remaining in tributaries like Kushiyara and Soorma.

Steps taken to Conserve Gangetic river Dolphin

  • The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary has been established in Bihar to conserve the species.
  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga has declared October 5th as National Ganga River Dolphin Day to raise awareness among people to conserve the species.
  • Project Dolphin, in line with Project Tiger, will be started soon by the Government of India. The Prime Minister of India announced in his Independence Day Speech, 2020
  • An action plan to conserve the species is being followed by GOI-The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020. It identifies threats to Gangetic river Dolphins and the impact of various threats like river traffic, irrigation canals, and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations in India.

Project Dolphin

  • The Project will be similar to Project Tiger, which has assisted in increasing the tiger population. The plan was given preliminary clearance in 2019 at the inaugural meeting of the Prime Minister-led National Ganga Council (NGC).
  • Project Dolphin is one of the operations planned under Arth Ganga, the government’s ambitious inter-ministerial effort authorised in 2019. So far, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which is in charge of implementing the government’s flagship plan Namami Gange, has taken some steps to rescue dolphins.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change is now anticipated to carry out Project Dolphin.

Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary

In August 1991, the Bihar State Government designated a 60-km segment of the Ganges River between Sultanganj and Kahalgaon as the Vikramshila Gangetic river Dolphin Sanctuary under authority conferred by the Government of India in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The Sanctuary is the only protected area established specifically for the protection of Ganges river dolphins, or susu.

vikramshila gangetic dolphin sanctuary
vikramshila gangetic river dolphin sanctuary

Download Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphins Sanctuary Map

Download HD Image of Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphins Sanctuary Map from Our Telegram Channel

In conclusion,

The Indian River Dolphins are an essential species for several reasons. They are a keystone species in their ecosystem, help to control the fish population, and are a popular tourist attraction. The future of the Indian River Dolphins are uncertain, but with the help of conservation efforts, they may be able to rebound.
Particularly the conservation of Gangetic river dolphins is essential to the health of the Ganges River. These creatures are an important part of the river ecosystem and play a key role in maintaining the balance of the aquatic food chain. without them, the river would be greatly affected. Therefore, it is important to take measures to protect these animals and their habitat.

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