Researchers studying the critically endangered Irrawaddy river dolphin are skeptic about reports of a rise in the number of the creatures and fear the mammals are probably in greater danger than ever.
According to Cambodia’s Commission for Mekong Dolphin Conservation, the upper Mekong River is now home to some 160 dolphins, while the number was just 90 last year when the government banned net fishing.
Scientists, however, are not convinced and feel such a dramatic rise in population is not feasible. It’s just not biologically possible because of their 11-month gestation period, they argue.
Isabel Beasley, a Ph.D. candidate at Australia’s James Cook University, said,
It’s impossible that the dolphin population would have increased substantially in only one year. The mortality is too high and 95 percent of dolphins in the river already occurred in the areas where the nets were banned.
According to Beasley, who has worked on the creatures from 2001-2005, the number of Irrawaddy dolphins, as of April 2005, stood between 127 and 161 in the entire Mekong River, while smaller populations can be found in Mahakam River (Indonesia) and Ayeyarwady River (Myanmar).