Archive Content

Please note: This page has been archived and its content may no longer be up-to-date. This version of the page will remain live for reference purposes as we work to update the content across our website.

WWF's Global River Dolphin Initiative

Posted on 15 May 2006

WWF’s Global Freshwater Programme and Global Species Programme have launched a River Dolphin Initiative with the aim of reducing threats to river dolphins and enhancing freshwater ecosystem health. River dolphins and porpoises are among the world’s most threatened mammal species.

Of the seven species of dolphins worldwide, four are found only in freshwater: the Ganges river Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), the Indus river dolphin (Platanista minor) and the Amazon dolphin (Inia geoffrensis).  In addition, there are two river dolphins and one river porpoise that can be found in both marine and freshwater, the tucuxi, Sotalia fluviates in South America and the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) and finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) in Asia.  

Below find a summary of feature stories, press release and background print material available from the initiative:

WWF news / publications concerning all or several river dolphin species:

WWF News (17 Oct 2006)
Counting river dolphins in Peru
Hundreds of dolphins were spotted along Peru’s Samiria and Maranon-Amazonas Rivers as part of South America’s first regional freshwater dolphin survey.

WWF News (10 Aug 2006)
Counting dolphins in Ecuador
Dozens of dolphins have been sighted in the rivers of Ecuador as part of a WWF-supported South American freshwater dolphin survey in the Amazon.

Factsheet: River Dolphins (08 Mar 2006)
River dolphins and porpoises swim in some of the world's mightiest rivers. But these river basins are also home to over 15 per cent of our planet's people and include some of the most densely populated, and poorest, areas on Earth.

Background Information: WWF’s River Dolphin Initiative (doc, 0.1MB)
WWF is committed to conserving the world's endangered river dolphins, and with help from our partners and supporters, we hope to prevent their extinction.

WWF News (21 March 2005)
River dolphins in freshwater battle against extinction
Ahead of World Water Day 2005, WWF launched an initiative to save river dolphins through improving freshwater systems, benefiting both dolphins and people.

Radio interview:
Rare dolphins serve as watchdogs for the water quality of Asian rivers
John Hay speaks with Lisa Hadeed, spokesperson for WWF's Freshwater Programme, about the role of dolphins as watchdogs for water quality and what is being done to protect them.

WWF news / publications concerning the Ganges river dolphin Platanista gangetica:

WWF Nepal study (May 2006)
Status, distribution and conservation threats of Ganges River dolphins in the Karnali River, Nepal: Six months of field research conducted by WWF along Nepal’s Karnali River shows that river dolphin populations are more endangered than ever. 

WWF News (3 Nov 2006)
Seismic work suspended in Brahmaputra, India
WWF-India welcomes the official decision to suspend seismic work in Brahmaputra, India. The potential impact of seismic tests to the highly endangered Ganges river dolphins could be large.

Case study (March 2006)
Conserving the Ganges River Dolphin and improving livelihoods in Farida village, India
Farida Village in Uttar Pradesh, India was identified as the most disadvantaged of a number of communities in a stretch of the Ganges River forming significant habitat for the endangered Ganges River Dolphin. The dolphin has been a species of special concern to WWF since 1997, and Farida village was chosen for a pilot dolphin conservation initiative in 2001. Follow up studies in 2005 quantified changes in wellbeing among villagers that were linked to the dolphin conservation programme.

WWF News (19 Dec 2005)
Ganges River dolphin rescue
Thanks to the efforts of local fishermen and WWF, an endangered Ganges river dolphin was rescued from a fishing net in India. After seven hours of hard work by WWF's river project team, the dolphin was released back into its proper habitat.

WWF Feature (15 March 2005)
Swimming blindly down the Ganges
The river dolphins of India’s sacred Ganges River are dwindling due to pollution and overfishing. But one stretch of the Ganges is seeing dolphin numbers doubling.

WWF Species fact file: Ganges River dolphin
The Ganges River dolphin lives in one of the world's most densely populated areas, and is threatened by removal of river water and siltation arising from deforestation, pollution and entanglement in fisheries nets.

WWF-India survey of the Ganges River dolphin
WWF-India has recently completed the first ever-Scientific Status Survey of the Ganges river dolphin in India namely in the state of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.

WWF-India: Facts on the Ganges River Dolphin & the Dolphin Conservation Programme
The Ganges River Dolphin is very much in danger of extinction. The population is declining rapidly at a rate of 10% annually. In Ganga the illegal annual off take of the dolphins is estimated to be 130-160 in number. The habitat of dolphin is greatly affected by industrial and agricultural development.

WWF news / publications concerning the Irrawaddy dolphin Orcaella brevirostris:

WWF Species fact file: Irrawaddy dolphin
Reports from the 1970s show that the fishermen of Burma attract the Irrawaddy dolphin by tapping the sides of their boats with oars. By swimming around the boat, the dolphin brings the fish into nets, and the fishermen share their catch with it.

WWF News (03 Feb 2006)
Dolphin death toll mounting in Asia
The death of ten Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River in Cambodia is raising serious concerns about the survival of this already critically endangered population, warns WWF.

WWF Feature (12 November 2004)
Surviving murky waters
It is the end of the monsoon season in Southeast Asia. The rains are less frequent now and the waters of the Bang Pakong River are unusually calm. This makes looking for the elusive Irrawaddy dolphin all the easier. 

WWF's Position Statement: Irrawaddy Dolphin (prepared for the CITES COP 13 meeting, Oct 2004. pdf, 0.2MB) fr  |  es 
Project description: Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation
The existing Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project aims to undertake a comprehensive status assessment of the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) population that inhabits the Mekong River, develop and implement effective conservation and management initiatives and build capacity amongst local government officials.
Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation Strategy (doc, 0.13MB)

Factsheet Irriwaddy Dolphin (by WWF Living Mekong Programme, pdf, 0.7MB)

WWF News (9 Jun 2005)
Caught in nets: WWF report identifies dolphins, porpoises most in need of urgent action
Nine dolphin and porpoise populations around the world need immediate action if they are to survive the threat of entanglement in fishing gear.

WWF Report:
Global Priorities for Reduction of Cetacean Bycatch
According to a new WWF report, bycatch – the capture in fishing gear of unwanted fish and other species – is one of the greatest global threats facing dolphins, porpoises, as well as whales. 

WWF Factsheet:
Nine dolphin and porpoise populations in urgent need of help (pdf, 0.5MB)

WWF factsheet on global bycatch

WWF news / publications concerning the Indus river dolphin Platanista minor

WWF Species fact file: Indus river dolphin
The Indus River dolphin is one of the world's rarest mammals and the second most endangered freshwater river dolphin. Approximately 1,100 specimen of this species exist today in a small fraction of their former range, the lower reaches of the Indus River in Pakistan.

Project description:
Conservation of the Endangered Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor)

WWF Video clip:
Indus River Dolphin Capture & Release

WWF news / publications concerning the Amazon (Pink River) dolphin Ina geoffrensis

WWF News (17 Oct 2006)
Counting river dolphins in Peru
Hundreds of dolphins were spotted along Peru’s Samiria and Maranon-Amazonas Rivers as part of South America’s first regional freshwater dolphin survey.

WWF News (10 Aug 2006)
Counting dolphins in Ecuador
Dozens of dolphins have been sighted in the rivers of Ecuador as part of a WWF-supported South American freshwater dolphin survey in the Amazon.

WWF news (09 May 2006)
First regional freshwater dolphin survey underway in South America
South American scientists embark on an expedition through the rivers and watersheds of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers to survey freshwater dolphins.

WWF Factsheet: Pink River Dolphin
The pink river dolphin is widely distributed in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.

Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), held captive in a marine park in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Rescue team figuring out the placement of nets with respect to the position of stranded Indus River dolphin. Indus River, Pakistan.
© WWF / WWF-Pakistan/Uzma Khan
Sindh Wildlife Department staff taking an Indus river dolphin (Platanista minor) for release, Pakistan.
© WWF / WWF-Pakistan/Uzma Khan
Male Indus river dolphin Platanista minor, died during the rescue in Rohri canal, Pakistan.
© WWF / WWF-Pakistan/Uzma Khan
Dead Indus River dolphin
© WWF-Pakistan
Poster for the WWF India's Ganges River Dolphin Project at Nadora, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Girls from the fishermen community that were by the Indus River watching the release of a rescued Indus River dolphin. Pakistan.
© WWF / WWF-Pakistan/Uzma Khan