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Study to save Irrawaddy dolphins

Cambodia,Environment/Wildlife, Mon, 30 Apr 2012 IANS

Phnom Penh, April 30 (IANS) A study was launched to protect the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Cambodia's Mekong river, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said Monday.


The Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of Mekong River Dolphin Ecotourism Zone, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry and the WWF will conduct the study, Xinhua reported.


The experts from the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will also participate in the research.


"We will dart the dolphins using specially prepared biopsy darts. The darts are designed to protect the animals and cannot pierce beyond their thick blubber layer. Only a tiny amount of tissue is collected, but it is enough to provide a wealth of important information," said Robert Pitman, study team leader with NOAA.


The biopsy samples are important to address questions regarding sex, reproductive state, population and social structure of the dolphins, and contaminant levels.


The Mekong river Irrawaddy dolphins are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The International Union for Conservation of Nature was founded in 1948 as the world's first global environmental organization.


The latest population estimate by WWF suggests fewer than 100 adult individuals remain in the river, and that the survival rate of dolphin calves is very low. There is evidence to suggest this population is in danger of extinction.



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