An endangered Gangetic dolphin died on Saturday after it lost its way and strayed into a canal in a village in the coastal East Midnapore district in West Bengal on Friday. After losing its way, the dolphin tragically made it into a polluted canal in East Midnapore's Mugberia. From fishing nets to plastic, it faced several obstructions on its way back causing it to move around in the canal. The Gangetic Dolphin is the national aquatic animal of India with only 2000 or less remaining in India, making it a highly endangered species.
"The dolphin had entered the canal on Friday and we tried to push it back into the river. We successfully did so at least 15 km downstream. But fishing nets obstructed its path", said Swagata Das, local divisional forest officer. The officer blamed pollution in the water to be a main reason behind the dolphin not being able to go back. The Ganges river dolphin was officially discovered in 1801. Ganges river dolphins once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. But the species is extinct from most of its early distribution ranges.
Only able to live in freshwater and essentially blind, these creatures hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds, which bounces off fish and other prey, enabling them to make an image in their mind. This quality helps them in navigational activities as well. They are frequently found alone or in small groups, and generally a mother and calf travel together. The presence of polluted thermocol, plastic and fishing nets is being considered the reason for the dolphin losing its trajectory. Although, local officials assume that the endangered species was unwell from before causing its death.
The Gangetic dolphin is the most threatened cetacean and among the world's most threatened mammals. It is listed as an endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Book and as a Flagship Species by WWF. It is placed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, making any hunting activity related to it a criminal offence.