GUWAHATI, Oct 12 – A conservation project for restoration of the important habitats for the Gangetic Dolphin (sihu), mooted by the Aaranyak, has won an international online public voting competition. Aaranyak’s Dolphin conservation project secured the first position with 4,736 votes, while UK’s Shark conservation project got the second position with 3,947 votes and Peru’s Manta Ray project got the third position with 3,681 votes.
The competition was organised by the European Outdoor Conservation Association, a Switzerland-based non-profit association.
Shortlisted from 86 projects initially, the dolphin conservation project was one of the seven from six countries in the Nature category. The online voting in all categories was opened from September 22 to November 6, where a total of 36,100 votes were counted with highest 19,735 votes in Nature category, 7,686 votes in Outdoor category and 8,689 votes in Alpine category.
Aaranyak’s Dolphin project not only received the highest votes in Nature category, but was also able to secure the highest votes among all the three category projects.
Through this project, Aaranyak plans to do habitat restoration activities in 30 most important dolphin habitats covering a 100-km river stretch of the Brahmaputra in association with local communities.
“These restoration activities include river clean, prevention of domestic garbage dump to the river, prevention of oil and grease dump to the river by the motor boats and ferries, prevention of riparian vegetation destruction and regular cleanliness monitoring by local communities,” Dr Abdul Wakid, Head of Aaranyak’s Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Initiative, said.
All these activities will not only help the about 600 endangered Gangetic dolphins inhabiting the Brahmaputra, but also the other associated aquatic animals living in those river stretches as well as the livelihood of riverside people, which altogether will lead into the Mission Clean Brahmaputra.
Thousands of fans of Aaranyak and Dolphins across the globe voted for this project. More significantly, two famous artistes from Assam, Angaraag Mahanta and Joy Barua, appealed to the public to vote for the cause. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (UK), Awley (France), Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (Hongkong), Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (UK), David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (UK), Wildlife1 (USA), etc., supported the cause. Thousands of people across Assam voted for the project with active association from all the members of Aaranyak.
Currently there are around 600 Gangetic dolphins in Brahmaputra river system within Assam. Aaranyak through its Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Initiative has been conducting conservation activities for the last ten years, for which the population of the species has been increasing from initial 250 in 2005 to 635 in 2012.
These dolphins have been facing severe threats from poaching, accidental killing and habitat degradation. Although Aaranyak has undertaken activities to reduce and prevent poaching and accidental killing, which reduced dolphin mortalities in Brahmaputra by 70 per cent in the last seven years, this is the first time that effort is going to be mode to reduce habitat degradation for the species in Brahmaputra through this project.