In the Mekong River, dolphins fight for their survival
The meeting is magnificent, but it becomes exceptional as the race is disappearing. They are still present in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, but they are about to die forever in this merciless nature where man is the biggest predator.
Cambodia recently declared tough laws against fishing in the Mekong River in an attempt to reduce the number of dolphins trapped and inadvertently killed in nets.
“We are afraid we won’t be able to protect them,” Phon Pharong, a resident of the eastern region of Kratie, admitted to AFP during a patrol for illegal gillnets.
This way of fishing with vertical mesh nets left in the water for long periods, catching fish blind, are the main cause of dolphin mortality in the Mekong, according to environmentalists.
Fortunately, there are people like Phon Pharong, who is one of 70 guards who monitor a 120-kilometer stretch of the Mekong between Kratie and the Laotian border in the north.
However, they are understaffed, these guards are often reduced to playing cat and mouse with the fishermen, who are well organized, numerous and equipped with better boats.
“When we patrol at night, they don’t come out. In the morning, we come back, and they have a clear path on the river,” explains Pharong, while many guards have to follow up with a job on land.
Moreover, their salary of 65 USD per month is not enough to live on, even if they receive 5 USD per day of patrol in addition, from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
This breed of Irrawaddy dolphins are small, shy creatures recognizable by their bulging foreheads and short noses, and used to swim as far south as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, several hundred kilometers away.
According to the latest census, the Mekong population has dropped from 200 in the first census in 1997 to 89 in 2020.
According to the WWF, this breed of dolphin is only present in two other rivers, the Irrawaddy in Burma and the Mahakam on the Indonesian island of Borneo. All three river populations are classified as “critically endangered”.
Irrawaddy’s dolphins also exist in larger numbers on some coasts of South and Southeast Asia, but not in freshwater, and they too are endangered.
Leave a Reply