Apr 24

Critically endangered Mekong river dolphins start to show signs of a comeback

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After decades of decline, the critically-endangered Mekong river dolphin has increased in population for the first time in a census released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the government of Cambodia.

One of just a few species of river dolphins in the world, Mekong dolphins had plummeted from 200 in 1997, the first year they were counted, to just 80 in 2015. Today the population is estimated at 97 with three dolphins born just this year.

Effective patrolling by teams of river guards and the strict confiscation of illegal gill nets which trap and drown the dolphins are the main reasons for the increase, according to experts.

Law enforcement efforts and increased ecotourism has helped draw attention to the dolphins while bringing economic opportunities beyond fishing.

The latest survey shows other encouraging signs, with improvements in survival rates, an increase in the number of calves and a drop in deaths.

“River dolphins are indicators of the health of the Mekong River and their recovery is a hopeful sign for the river and the millions of people who depend on it,” said Seng Teak, country director of WWF Cambodia.

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