Odisha records 33% rise in dolphin population but numbers drop in Chilika lake

In the annual census report released by the Odisha government, the population of a total of six species of dolphins namely, Irrawaddy, bottlenose, humpback, striped, finless and spinner dolphins — have been recorded. More details here.

Ashis SenapatiAshis Senapati   31 March 2022 2:21 PM GMT

Odisha records 33% rise in dolphin population but numbers drop in Chilika lake

While releasing the findings of its census report for this year, Odisha's Forest and Environment Department stated today on March 31 that the population of dolphins has increased from a total of 544 in 2021 to 726 in 2022 — registering an increase of 33.45 per cent.

However, the census report noted that the Chilika Lake, which is the largest saltwater lake in the country, has been found to have a lesser number of dolphins than last year. In 2021, a total of 188 dolphins were counted as opposed to 167 this year.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is the most widely found dolphin species in Odisha, most of which are found in the Chilika lake. The lake witnessed a drop in the number of Irrawaddy dolphins from 162 in 2021 to 151 in 2022.

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But two other sites where the Irrawaddy dolphins are found in Odisha, namely Rajnagar mangrove and Puri, witnessed a rise in their numbers — with Rajnagar recording a rise from 39 to 45 Irrawaddy dolphins while Puri witnessed eight such dolphins this year despite not contributing a single Irrawaddy dolphin to the census last year. At present, Odisha has a total of 208 Irrawaddy dolphins.

The official press release mentioned that the census was conducted from December 16 to December 18 in the five coastal divisions —Rajnagar, Puri, Berhampur, Bhadrak and Balasore while the census exercise was conducted from January 9 to January 11 in the Chilika lake.

"The present distribution range of this Irrawaddy dolphin is only in Asia. They are spread across from Chilika to Indonesia. They are protected in India under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and IUCN Red List [International Union for Conservation of Nature], Sashi Paul, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) of Odisha, told Gaon Connection.

The census report also found that the water bodies of the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and its nearby areas within Bhitarkanika National Park in the Kendrapara district as the forest officials counted 540 dolphins including 45 Irrawaddy dolphins, 153 bottlenose dolphins , 332 humpback dolphins , 13 striped dolphins and 15 spinner dolphins.

"In 2021 , we sighted only 342 dolphins including 39 Irrawaddy dolphins , 22 bottlenose dolphins and 281 humpback dolphins," Paul told Gaon Connection.

"The census exercise for dolphins was carried out within a width of one kilometres along the 484 kilometres long coastline in Odisha and Chilika Lake. Forty eight teams were involved in the census exercise," the official added.

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