The last remaining Irrawaddy dolphin in the Chheuteal Pool of Stung Treng province was found dead on February 15, with experts concluding that it may have died due to tail injuries caused by an entangled fishing net.
For more than a month, the lonely dolphin had been unable to swim well enough to hunt effectively, and had lost an estimated half of its bodyweight. Having discovered the problem, Fisheries Administration experts and World Wide Fund for Nature Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia) had been working together to find a solution, but to no avail.
Provincial authorities said that due to the lack of specialised equipment and training in techniques to catch the mammal, its officials had been monitoring the dolphin every day to prevent it from being harassed by fishermen.
Srey Sam Vichet, head of the provincial Fisheries Administration, told The Post on February 15 that the dolphin was found dead near the shore close to where it lived. The dolphin may have died because it could no longer bear its wounds. Since it was injured, it had fallen ill, he said.
“After finding it dead near the dolphin pool, our initial findings are that it likely died due to the wounds suffered from its entanglement in the net. Our experts are still investigating and we have not yet decided where an autopsy will take place. Once we have carried out our inspection, we will know the cause of death with more certainty,” he added.
Provincial hall spokesman Men Kong told The Post that the loss of the only remaining dolphin in the pool bordering Cambodia and Laos was saddening.
“This is very sad because we have been trying to conserve it for a long time. We know that the dolphin was unique among the species in our river. The passing amounts to the loss of an entire species in our conservation area,” he said.
Kong added that the administration was not yet sure if they would try to introduce another species of fresh water dolphin into the area. He said the administration would support the decision of any experts who discovered a species that could thrive in the Chheuteal conservation area to replace the lost dolphin.
The loss of dolphins in the Chheuteal area has occurred steadily since 2018. One by one they had become entangled in nets. A study in 2018 found that there were only three surviving dolphins. The last remaining one had been alone since early 2021.