The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF-Cambodia) Mekong dolphin Research Team confirmed the presence of a 10-day-old Irrawaddy dolphin calf.
The team took photographs of the calf on May 16 while it swam among seven adult dolphins in Kratie province’s Kampi pool area, according to a press release from WWF-Cambodia on May 21.
The newborn brings the number of calves to three spotted between January and May 2021.
The number is less than last year as travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 community outbreak have prevented research teams from completing surveys during March and April, which is the peak season for the birth of the dolphins, known by their scientific name Orcaella brevirostris.
The monitoring programme checks the status of dolphins and estimates their number along the 180km of the Mekong River between Kratie town and the Cambodia-Laos border.
The 2020 census of the dolphin’s population by the Fisheries Administration and WWF-Cambodia showed only 89 still living in the Mekong River.
WWF-Cambodia country director Seng Teak explained that every single newborn calf is important for the survival of the small Irrawaddy dolphin population.
“The protection of the animals from the harmful effects of human activities is even more critical to reduce the species’ mortality rate,” he said.
The dolphin is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
Between January and May 2021, the research team recorded four dolphin deaths – one adult died by entanglement in a gill net, another died of old age while the cause of deaths for the calf and the other dolphin is unknown.
With a similar mortality rate recorded between January and May 2020, WWF-Cambodia’s scientists find the trend worrisome and urge the need of even more collective action and stronger conservation measures to save the species from extinction.