National Aquatic Animal of India: The Ganges River Dolphin

The National Aquatic Animal of India is The Ganges River Dolphin, also known as Susu.

As one of India’s national symbols, this fascinating creature represents a vital part of the country’s heritage and biodiversity. Found in the river systems of Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna, and Karnaphuli-Sangu, spanning Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, the Ganges River Dolphin is a cherished inhabitant of these waters.

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The Reason Behind the Title

The designation of the Ganges River Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal of India was an essential step taken to safeguard it from the risk of extinction. Additionally, these dolphins serve as a reflection of the Ganga River’s health, making their preservation even more critical. The declaration was made during the inaugural meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2009.

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Facts about the Ganges River Dolphin

Aspirants preparing for the UPSC 2023 examination should familiarize themselves with some essential facts about the National Aquatic Animal of India – the Ganges River Dolphin. Here are some interesting details:

1. Found Exclusively in Freshwater

The Ganges River Dolphin is endemic to the river Ganga, dwelling exclusively in freshwater environments.

2. Apex of the Aquatic Food Chain

As a dominant species, the Ganges River Dolphin holds a significant position at the apex of the aquatic food chain.

3. Unique Names

These dolphins are known by various names, including Susu, Shushak, Side Swimming Dolphin, and Blind Dolphin due to their distinct characteristics.

4. Whistle-Like Communication

The South Asian River Dolphins, including the Ganges River Dolphin, communicate through whistles, earning them the nickname “Susu.”

5. Conservation Efforts

To secure a future for this endangered species, the World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF-India, initiated the Dolphin Conservation Programme. Several stretches, including Ganga River and Chambal River, were chosen for these efforts.

6. Mythological Connection

In Indian mythology, the Dolphin is considered the vehicle of Goddess Ganga, adding to its cultural significance.

7. Endangered Status

The Ganges River Dolphin is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts.

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Unique Features of the Ganges River Dolphin

The Gangetic Dolphin exhibits several unique physical traits, distinguishing it from other cetaceans. These features include:

  • Sturdy and Flexible Body: With large flippers and a low triangular dorsal fin, the Ganges River Dolphin boasts a sturdy and flexible physique.
  • Long, Pointed Snout: Their long, pointed snout aids in catching shrimp and fish by rooting around with their beak.
  • Echolocation: Since their eyes lack a lens, these dolphins use echolocation to visualize and catch their prey by emitting ultrasonic sounds.
  • Sexual Dimorphism: Female dolphins are larger than males, with a maximum size of around 2.70 meters for females and 2.12 meters for males.

Threats to the National Aquatic Animal

Unfortunately, the Ganges River Dolphin faces various threats, endangering its survival:

Threats to the National Aquatic Animal

1. Human-Animal Conflict

Conflicts between humans and dolphins, often arising from competition over fishing grounds, contribute to their accidental killings.

2. Poaching and Killing

The demand for the oil and meat of the Gangetic dolphin leads to deliberate killings and poaching in their distribution range.

3. Habitat Degradation

Dams and barrages restrict their migration, while water extraction for irrigation causes a decline in water levels and alters their habitat.

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Preserving India’s Aquatic Treasure

As the National Aquatic Animal of India, the Ganges River Dolphin deserves protection and conservation efforts to ensure its survival. The delicate balance between human activities and preserving biodiversity is vital for securing the future of these captivating creatures. Together, we can take steps to safeguard our national treasure, ensuring the survival of this incredible species for generations to come.

WWF-India’s Conservation Efforts

Organizations like WWF-India have been at the forefront of conservation efforts to protect the Ganges River Dolphin and its habitat. Through various initiatives, WWF-India aims to raise awareness about the importance of preserving this endangered species.

The Dolphin Conservation Programme focuses on creating protected areas and safe corridors for the dolphins to thrive. By collaborating with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, WWF-India has conducted extensive surveys using the Tandem Boat Method to monitor the dolphin population and their habitats.

Mitigating Human-Dolphin Conflicts

To reduce human-dolphin conflicts, awareness programs have been implemented to educate local communities about the significance of preserving these magnificent creatures. Sustainable fishing practices and eco-friendly measures are being promoted to minimize accidental killings and habitat degradation.

Protecting the Habitat

The construction of dams and barrages has been a major concern, hindering the migration of Ganges River Dolphins and fragmenting their population. Conservation efforts involve advocating for ecologically sensitive dam construction and the implementation of fish-friendly turbines to facilitate dolphin movement.

Government Initiatives

The Indian government recognizes the need for protecting the Ganges River Dolphin. The list of species under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, making it illegal to hunt or trade them. By enforcing stringent laws and regulations, the government aims to deter poaching and protect the species from illegal trade.

Spreading Awareness

Creating awareness among people, especially the younger generation, is crucial for fostering a sense of responsibility towards our environment. Educational programs and campaigns are essential to instill a deep understanding of the importance of preserving biodiversity, including the National Aquatic Animal of India.

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Final Thought

The Ganges River Dolphin, the National Aquatic Animal of India, holds a unique place in our cultural and ecological heritage. As an apex predator in the aquatic ecosystem, it plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of our rivers. However, with increasing human activities and habitat degradation, their survival is at risk.

Preserving this majestic species requires collective efforts from governments, organizations, and individuals alike. By supporting conservation initiatives, advocating for eco-friendly practices, and raising awareness about the plight of these dolphins, we can secure their future and maintain the beauty and diversity of our nation’s waterways.

As citizens of India, it is our duty to protect our national treasure – the Ganges River Dolphin. Together, let us take steps towards a sustainable future where these enchanting creatures can continue to thrive and grace our rivers for generations to come.

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