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Indus River Dolphin: National Aquatic Animal Of Pakistan

Indus River dolphins are an extremely unique and rare species of freshwater dolphin located in South Asia’s Indus River.

These dolphins can only be found in the waters of the Indus River in Pakistan, primarily in the lower parts, where the water is deeper and travels slowly. Indus River dolphins do not appear to be fierce hunters like their oceanic neighbours, and their diet mostly includes fish, though they also eat small seafood such as clams and prawns.

In this blog, we will discover the life of the Indus River Dolphin, its appearance, behaviour, diet and the threats to this species.

Appearance Of Indus River Dolphin

As compared to other types of fish in Pakistan, the Indus River dolphin has a length of 7 to 8.5 feet and a weight of 150–200 pounds. Compared to males, females are somewhat bigger. Every dolphin found in the Indus River has a large, curved body with a short triangular fin situated deep down its back. They have a characteristic “melon” on their head, just as other whales and dolphins This “melon” is actually a rounded forehead that gathers noise from the surroundings.

The dolphin of the Indus River has a grey back and a creamy white or pinkish bottom. Its eyes are small and underdeveloped, situated above the corners of the mouth.

Behavior And Diet Of Indus River Dolphin

Indus River Dolphins make noise almost continuously in order to locate food, interact with one another, and move. When they surface to breathe, they produce a sound like a sneeze. Although they are typically found alone or in pairs, groups of up to ten dolphins have been observed. They seldom approach boats and frequently swim on their side.

Dolphins in the Indus River can hold their breath for up to several minutes, but they typically dive for 30 to 90 seconds. Dolphins search for food and find suitable fish feeds along the riverbed with their long beaks, and occasionally they combine in groups to search for food. Their teeth resemble teeth, which they use to consume prawns, fish and clams.

Where Do Indus River Dolphin Live

The Indus River dolphin was found historically between the Indus River delta and the low-lying Himalayan foothills. It was discovered in the Indus River’s tributaries as well. These days, its range is restricted to south-central Pakistan and the upper and middle reaches of the Indus River. Only twenty percent of its historical range is represented by this location.

Freshwater is the only habitat for Indus River dolphins. During the flood season, they can occasionally be seen in the main channels of rivers and tributaries, although they typically prefer shallow, muddy waters.

Lifespan Of Indus River Dolphin

The Indus River Dolphins have a 30-year lifespan. Between the ages of six and ten, kids acquire sexual maturity. Females give birth to a single calf, and adults reproduce all year long. For around a year, mothers tend to their calves.

Threats To Indus River Dolphin

Below are some of the most significant threats to the Indus River Dolphin.

1. Entanglement

One of the most serious risks to Indus River dolphins is becoming entangled or captured in fishing gear, such as gillnets and longlines. Indus River dolphins are mistakenly caught in fishing gear, primarily in side channels and surrounding waters along the Indus River, where commercial fishing has increased due to higher fish numbers.

2. Habitat Degradation

Indus River dolphins are vulnerable to habitat deterioration and damage. Human activities like dredging and extraction of water can harm Indus River dolphin habitats. Dams and irrigation systems additionally restrict Indus River dolphins from migrating upstream, ultimately disrupting populations.

3. Ocean Noise

Underwater noise pollution disrupts the usual behaviour of Indus River dolphins, who use sound for interaction and echolocate. Noise pollution from vessels and industrial operations disrupts the feeding, communication, and direction of Indus River dolphins. Loud noises can cause permanent or temporary loss of hearing.

4. Chemical Contaminants

Numerous activities, including agriculture, various industrial processes, and wastewater discharges, release contaminants into the Indus River. Due to their lengthy lifetime and high position in the food chain, Indus River dolphins have the ability to collect toxins in their bodies. The immunological and reproductive systems of river dolphins may be harmed by these contaminants. Fish can be killed by chemicals, which decreases the amount of food that dolphins in the Indus River have to choose from.

5. Vessel Strikes

Indus River dolphins may be killed or seriously injured by unintentional vessel hits. Throughout their range, these dolphins are in danger of vessel collisions, but in certain locations with considerable vessel activity, the risk is significantly higher.

Conclusion

The Indus River dolphin, Pakistan’s national aquatic animal, is an endangered freshwater species confined to the lower and middle reaches of the Indus River. These dolphins, known for their constant use of sound to navigate and communicate, have rounded, stocky bodies, small triangular fins, and poorly developed eyes. They live in shallow, murky waters and primarily consume fish and invertebrates. Once widespread, their range has now shrunk to 20% of its historical extent. Indus River dolphins face significant threats from entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, underwater noise pollution, chemical contaminants, and vessel strikes, all of which jeopardize their survival and reproductive success.

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