- Status: Endangered
- Known as: South Asian River Dolphin, Blind River Dolphin, Ganges Dolphin, Ganges Susu, Indus River Dolphin, Susu.
- Estimated numbers left in the wild: +/-2000.
The river dolphin is characterized by its long pointy nose, thickening towards the end, large steeply rising forehead, small eyes, brownish/grey skin, and stocky build. They are typically solitary creatures and usually spotted on their own or in loose groups. They do not ordinarily form tight interactive groups.
The river dolphin is essentially blind because It lacks a crystalline eye lens. Despite the lack of an eye lens, it still has the ability to detect the intensity and direction of light in the murky waters in which it inhabits. The river dolphin hunts and navigates using a method called echolocation or biological sonar.
This method involves the animal emitting calls and listening to the echoes that return from various objects in the surrounding environment and enables the river dolphin to locate and identify objects.
In place of a dorsal fin, the river dolphin has a small, triangular lump.
Its flippers are thin and are considered large compared to its body which generally reaches approximately 2 to 2.2 meters in males and 2.4 to 2.6 meters in females. The oldest recorded South Asian River Dolphin was a 28-year-old male who was measured at 199 cms.
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Native to freshwater rivers located in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Nepal. They are most commonly found in waters abundant in prey consisting of various shrimp and fish (carp and catfish) and a reduced water current.
The river dolphin is split into two subspecies, namely the Ganges and Indus. The Ganges subspecies inhabits the Ganges- Brahmaputra- Meghna and Kampaphuli-Sangu river systems of Bangladesh and India with small populations located on the Ghaghara River and Sapta Kosi River.
The Indus subspecies can be found between the Sukkur and Guddu barrage in the Sind Province of Pakistan.
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Exploding human populations in the Ganges drainage area threatens the natural habitat of the river dolphin due to strains on the natural resources.
They also face threats as rivers are dammed for irrigation and electricity, which results in river dolphin populations becoming isolated and seasonal migration being prevented. They are further threatened by pollution, boats, hunting, and human disturbance. They are hunted for food and oil and often become trapped in fishing nets.
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The South Asian River dolphins are protected on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are also listed in the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Sea (ASCOBANS) and protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.
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Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the South Asian River Dolphin? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.