The discovery of a new Irrawaddy dolphin population is important because scientists and conservation groups do not know how many of the mammals remain across south and south-east Asia. In 2008, the dolphins were listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of endangered species.
Until the new population was found in Bangladesh, the number of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Sundarbans was estimated at 450. The largest known populations to date have numbered in the low hundreds or fewer: at least 125 in the Mekong River, 77 in the Malampaya Sound in the Philippines and up to 100 in Indonesia’s Mahakam River.
“This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins,” said Brian D Smith, the WCS study’s lead author. “Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.” The WCS, based in New York, attributed the findings to scientific techniques in an area where little marine-mammal research has taken place.
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