Chilika : Highest Number of Irrawaddy Dolphins In the World
Chilika Having the Highest Single Lagoon Population of Irrawaddy Dolphins in the World
Let’s have a few fast facts regarding…. what this Irrawaddy Dolphins are all about!!!
Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, and in three rivers : the Irrawaddy (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong (China) and very sparsely in some other rivers .
Irrawaddy Dolphins have been earmarked as critically ‘Endangered Species’ as per the IUCN Red List.
Irrawaddy Dolphins are seen in only two lagoons of the world and they are Chilika in the coast of Odisha,India and the Songkhla in the southern Thailand.
An adult Irrawaddy Dolphin grows up to 1.5 to 2.8 m in length and weighs up to 190 kg.
The Irrawaddy Dolphins do not have common characteristics like beak and streamlined head. Instead ,they have a blunt snout and a high bulging forehead.
The Irrawaddy Dolphins are a significant pointer of the wellbeing and sound administration of the waterbody and their decrease in number could flag a conceivably destroying decline in the health of the whole waterbody.
Satapada of Odisha ( located in the eastern coast of India) is always preferred as the best place for cruising in Chilika(Asia’s largest and world’s 2nd largest brackish water lagoon), to see the seamouth and Irrawaddy dolphin sighting as well. Satapada is around 110 Kms away from Bhubaneswar ( capital of the state of Odisha) . En route comes the holy religious city ,Puri.There are also enough opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and boating in Satapada. A small island called Rajahansa is situated near this place at the mouth of the lagoon.
World wide Distribution of this gentle marine mammal
The total population of these aquatic mammals in the world is estimated to be less than 7,500. Of these, more than 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins have been reported from Bangladesh, while the dolphin distribution in Chilika is considered to be the highest single lagoon population.
The Irrawaddy dolphins populace that continue to settle in the brackish waters of Chilika lagoon has reported a substantial jump this year. The annual dolphin census of this year says that there are around 162( 2021) numbers of this critically endangered species in Chilika which is 16 more from the last year(2020) figure, which was 146.
The wildlife wing of the State Forest and Environment Department would give a more accurate figure of the adult and calf population of Irrawaddy dolphins after a thorough analysis.
A hydrophone is a microphone designed to be used underwater for recording or listening to underwater sound.
As per hydrophone checking last year(2020) in Chilika, the most noteworthy number of Irrawaddy dolphins (20-25) were moving around Rajhans, trailed by the Magarmukh and Malatikuda territories, where dolphins numbering between 17-20 were normal.
The Area of Expanse of Chilika Does not Remain Same Round the Year
According to the CDA, the water-spread area of Chilika varies between 1,165 to 900 sq. km. during the monsoon and summer respectively, making it the largest brackish water lagoon in the country.
Dolphin Populace and Reasons Behind
There is also an overall increase in dolphin population in Chilika as 26 bottle-nose dolphins too were sighted during the census as against 17 last year(2020). This has taken the overall population of dolphins, inhabiting the lake, to 188 from 162 in 2021, says report of the annual dolphin census carried out in February,2021 by Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and State Wildlife Wing.
Apart from Chilika, 39 Irrawaddy dolphins were also sighted in the Rajnagar mangrove division, though their number has come down from 60 in 2020.
There are several reasons which can be attributed to the current increase in dolphins in Chilika lagoon..Out of them, the two most prominent reasons being…
The first reason is that CDA launched a special drive to evict a substantial patch of Chilika which was earlier under illegal prawn farming ghery. It has come to the public notice that around 15163 hector area has been freed up from illegal encroachment for prawn farming by mafias since 2018 till date.So the easy and free movement of dolphins could become possible.
The second reason is that ..the Chilika remained closed for tourists for a major and vital part of the year 2020 because of Covid 19 guidelines ,issued by the government..It is because of this travel restrictions, CDA ( Chilika Development Authority) officials have noticed that more dolphins are being sighted in new areas in the central and southern sectors of Chilika, more specifically the Kalijai and Rambha regions where touristic activities remain high during other days of the year.
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Dr. Manoj Mishra