Introducing the Whales and Dolphins of Bangladesh

With the goal of introducing whales and dolphins to the public and making people aware of the necessity for ongoing conservation efforts, the first ever Whale and Dolphin Exhibition in Bangladesh took place on 9-12 October at the Shishu Academy in Dhaka. Nature lovers were invited to gain insight into the lives of these friendly and highly intelligent sea mammals, and large numbers of people, young and old, accepted that invitation during the four-day event.

Under the banner “Introducing the Whales and Dolphins of Bangladesh”, the event featured photographs, film shows, interactive games and life-sized models. The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP), along with the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, presented the proposed “Protected Area Network for Cetacean Diversity”, which focuses on conserving these fascinating mammals. A related study has identified a large stretch of estuarine, coastal and pelagic waters extending across the Sundarbans and including a 900 meter deep undersea canyon that is rich in cetacean (the order under which whales and dolphins are categorized) diversity. In addition to the public exhibition, a series of seminars and workshops were held that highlighted research and conservation efforts currently underway in Bangladesh, as well as what has already been achieved and plans for the future.

Dolphins, known as “shushuk” in the local language, have been living in many of the rivers of Bangladesh for centuries, and yet ordinary Bangladeshi citizens know very little about them. Distinguished by their unusually long snout, small dorsal fins and large flippers, Ganges River Dolphins are the most readily recognized in Bangladesh. They are found in dwindling numbers throughout the Padma, Jamuna, Meghna, Sangu and Karnaphuli rivers. Irrawaddy Dolphins live in coastal waters where freshwater rivers flow into the sea. These dolphins have a very small, indistinct beak and a rounded head. They have a blunt, triangular dorsal fin with long, broad flippers. Perfectly at home in both salt and fresh waters, Irawaddy Dolphins share the Ganges River Dolphins’ habitat in the Sundarbans mangrove forest waterways. While living mostly in the open coastal waters of Bangladesh, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and finless porpoises are also occasionally found in the mangrove forests. Other dolphins to be found in limited numbers in the sea areas of the country are Spinner Dolphins, Omdo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins and Dan Tropical Spotted Dolphins, all of which are considered to be endangered, a situation that has come about primarily through extensive fishing operations where hundreds of dolphins become victims in the fishing nets.

The dolphins of Bangladesh face an uncertain future as the waters they depend on for survival become increasingly polluted. The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) hopes to raise awareness of the plight of these gentle creatures, and motivate concerned animal lovers to assist in conservation efforts.