Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Irrawaddy Dolphin

Orcaella brevirostris
The Irrawaddy Dolphin is a rare species of Dolphin that is found only in the coastal waters near Australia and Southeast Asia. They are sometimes called Irrawaddy River Dolphins, even though they are not true River Dolphins. This is because they often inhabit estuaries and river mouths, and because some sub-populations have even made their homes in freshwater rivers like the Mekong and Irrawaddy.

Unfortunately, many of those sub-populations are not doing too well, and are considered to be Critically Endangered. In the Mekong, for example, there are less than 100 Dolphins. The populations in India and Bangladesh appear to be more stable, and actually account for most of the worldwide count. They are listed as Vulnerable overall because of those groups.

Irrawaddy Dolphins look a bit like small Belugas, though they are actually closer relatives to Killer Whales. They aren't especially large, maxing out around 7ft and 300lbs. They live in very small groups, and are very slow moving, passive Dolphins who feed on a large variety of fish, cephalopods, and other marine invertebrates.

The major threats to the Irrawaddy Dolphins are fishing and habitat degradation. Because they live in rivers and so close to shore they are often accidentally captured by fishing nets. They are also affected by damming and mining run off, and they have also been captured for the performance aquarium industry. They are protected by CITES, but the conservation efforts vary country to country.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Indian and Pacific Ocean
Size : Length up to 7.5ft (2.3m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Delphinidae -- Genus : Orcaella -- Species : O. brevirostris
Image : Stefan Brending

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