Thursday, June 18, 2009

Study Says Mekong River Dolphins Near Extinction

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is warning that the Mekong River's Irrawaddy Dolphin, one of the few species of dolphin that call rivers home, is in grave danger of extinction.

The WWF says that only between 76 and 64 Irrawaddy Dolphins are left in the Mekong, while in the past six years officials recorded the deaths of nearly 90 dolphins. Increasing levels of pollution seems to be the main cause of the demise of the Irrawaddy Dolphin in the Mekong.

In 2007, China's Baiji, or Yangtze River Dolphin, was declared "functionally extinct" - a search in 2006 found no Baiji in the Yangtze, and while there was a reported, but unconfirmed sighting in 2007, it was decided that there was not a large enough Baiji population remaining to keep the species going, so it was declared "functionally" extinct. Pollution and collisions with ships were blamed for the Baiji's demise.

The announcement of the Mekong River dolphin situation came alongside a report issued by a collection of local NGOs that pollution and plans for nearly a dozen hydroelectric dams along the Mekong threatened mass extinctions of many other species. The "Save the Mekong" coalition warns that the dams, if built, would devastate one of the world's richest fisheries. According to the coalition, the Mekong Basin accounts for 2% of all the fish caught annually in the world, and feeds tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia.
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