November 3, 2016

LAOS: World Wildlife Fund Reported That The Irrawaddy Dolphin, Or "Smiling Face Of The Mekong," Has Become Functionally Extinct In Laos >:/

Xinhuanet News, China
written by Staff
Thursday November 3, 2016

VIENTIANE -- Mekong River dolphins, or Irrawaddy dolphins, is functionally extinct in Laos, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Laos on Thursday.

The WWF survey teams from Laos and Cambodia recently conducted a dolphin abundance survey and confirmed the current number of the dolphins in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia has shrunk by 50 percent in 2016.

The survey teams reported that the group has now shrunk to just three individuals from six earlier in 2016. There is now little hope for a reversal of the situation, as the small population is no longer viable, local Vientiane Times cited the survey as saying.

Functional extinction results when there are too few potential breeding pairs available to ensure the survival of the population, according to the survey team.

Amphone Phommachak, WWF-Laos Southern Provinces Coordinator said on Thursday that the use of gillnets, especially unmanned gillnets, is thought to be one of the main reasons for the demise of the dolphins. Gillnets are vertical panels of netting set in a straight line across a river to catch fish. Being large aquatic mammals, Mekong River dolphins, as well as other endangered aquatic species, are often caught in gillnets, and drown as a consequence.

The use of gillnets in the Mekong River is prohibited in Cambodia where there are an estimated 80 dolphins, but not in Laos, Phommachak said, adding that the WWF calls for an immediate ban on all gillnets for a 2 km radius around the Cheuteal pool (4 km in the rainy season) and increased enforcement against violators.

Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin can be found in some coastal areas in Asia but there are only three freshwater subpopulations, including the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, the Mahakam River in Indonesia, and the Mekong River in Cambodia and Laos.

The Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin has been listed as critically endangered on the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species since 2004.

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