New Delhi, 9 May 2018: WWF-India, in partnership with the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab conducted the first ever organised Indus River Dolphin Survey from 3-6 May 2018 across a 185km stretch of the river Beas ( Beas Conservation Reserve). The dolphin survey started from 52 Headworks, Talwara on 3 May 2018 and ended at Harike Nooze point on 6 May 2018. However, 55Km of river downstream of 52 Headworks was surveyed by road due to insufficient water in the River Beas while the remaining 130Km was surveyed using motorboats. Direct counts were conducted using tandem boat survey method (using 2 boats and a team of 8 observers and 2 data recorders) .
During the survey, the first dolphin sighting occurred at the village of Mundapind, which included an adult female with a week-old calf and a sub-adult. A second dolphin sighting occurred at the village of Karmowala (8 kilometers downstream of Mundapind) which again included an adult female with a week-old calf and a subadult, indicating breeding populations in the river. Based on the direct counts, after correcting for dolphins that were missed by the survey, the final estimate of the population of Indus River Dolphins in the Beas River stands at 5 – 11 individuals.
Although the population of the species is small, its presence in the Beas river above the Harike barrage for 70 years, indicates no decline in population of the species. The presence of a young calf is also a positive sign and indicates a population that is large enough to be viable.
This survey was coordinated by Dr Kuldip Kumar, Chief Wildlife Warden Punjab, Mr Suresh Babu, Director-Rivers, Wetlands & Water Policy, WWF-India, Mr Neeraj Gupta, DFO and Ms Gitanjali Kanwar, Sr Project Officer, WWF-India. The survey design and execution was led by world renowned Indus Dolphin specialist Dr Gill Braulik, Member of IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group. Taking this forward, the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab and WWF-India will be preparing an Indus River Dolphin strategy with an implementation road map to secure the habitats and conserve the endangered species.
Prior to the survey, there was an interactive session on the Indus River Dolphin among experts and children, the riparian community and officials from Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, followed by technical training sessions for 15 officials from Ferozepur and Hoshiarpur Wildlife Division and WWF-India.