Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins

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The recent death of a 92 kg freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin, also known as the Mekong River Dolphin or Kratie Dolphin made news throughout Cambodia. 

According to the Department of Fisheries Conservation and WWF-Cambodia only 92 of the timid maritime mammals remain, mostly living in their Kratie habitat some five hours north of Phnom Penh.

Cause of death appears to be entanglement in an illegal fishing net, a not uncommon danger for dolphins living in a habitat prized by local fishermen.

In spite of major efforts to improve their numbers, the endangered marine mammals are facing extinction.  There were 80 recorded Irrawaddy dolphins in 2015.  Four were born in the first few months of this year, gestation taking two to three years, but two died.

The dolphins are grey blue in colour, feature a large forehead, rounded skull, a mouth set in a smile and a dorsal fin located on their back. They also have long-broad flippers, weigh up to 136 kgs and grow to 2.5 metres in length.

Irrawaddy dolphins communicate using clicks and buzzing sounds and travel in small pods of three to six and occasionally up to 15 or more.  They remain social with one another in their pods and will intermingle with other pods.

Seeing the Irrawaddy dolphin in the wild can be a truly memorable experience but don’t expect them to leap out of the water and play like Flipper.  The Irrawaddy dolphin is timed preferring to show you smiles, backs and fins.

A day trip with Cambodian Pride Tours out of Kratie costs about US$40.  The tour takes 3-5 hours and can be started at any time of the day from Kratie town.  Viewing is guaranteed.  Alternatively, you can hire a tuk tuk in Kratie to Kampi for $10, which takes 30 minutes, and then take a boat tour for about an hour at $9 per person or $7 each if there is a group of three or more.  Drivers also serve as guides.

See the Irrawaddy dolphins while you can.  #