Thailand stepping up efforts to save the dolphins

In the largest meeting of international dolphin experts ever held in the Kingdom, Thai officials mapped out steps to increase protections for the small population of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in a southern Thai lake.
The plan to protect the dolphins was worked out in consultation with experts from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and those from India, Cambodia and Lao PDR – countries that also have small, endangered Irrawaddy dolphin populations – and representatives from World Bank.
Only about 14 to 20 Irrawaddy dolphins live in Songkhla Lake in the southern province of Songkhla. The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources had said earlier that the number of dolphins has been declining during the past three decades, with fishermen’s nets posing the most serious threat to the sea mammals. Globally, fewer than 300 of this species still exist in the wild, mostly in rivers and lakes in Southeast and South Asia.
Under the plan, Thailand will carry out research through a variety of methods including boat-based surveys, aerial surveys, acoustic surveys and other means such as DNA, genetic diversity, water quality, and ecosystem.
The international experts advised their Thai counterparts to incorporate habitat restoration into their conservation plan. The Faculty of Fisheries, Kasetsart University, which contributed to the plan, believes it can stabilize the number of dolphins for 15 years and take away their risk of extinction in 30 years.
The experts and the World Bank were planning to eventually issue a joint declaration covering the protected area, patrols, sustainable fishing and awareness campaigns to improve the current status of the creatures and reduce the current impacts.
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