Did You Know?
The Yangtze river dolphin is said to be functionally extinct, since there are estimated to be fewer breeding pairs than necessary to maintain a flourishing population.
Endangered Dolphin Species
There are several species of dolphins, and not all of them are endangered or under a threat of getting extinct. It is mainly river dolphins that are under serious threat of extinction. Oceanic dolphin populations are relatively in sound health.
Among river dolphins, the Yangtze river dolphin, also called baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), is virtually extinct, their population in the wild consisting of just a few individuals.
The South Asian river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), both found in south and southeast Asia, have been declining for a number of years.
Why Are Dolphins Endangered?
Dolphins and shark are smart enough to go after the fish caught in trawler nets. However, many dolphins are killed and injured as the net closes in on them before they have had the chance to escape.
According to WWF, more than 300,000 dolphins, whales, and porpoises are killed in this way every year! Some are also severely injured or killed by boat propellers, although adult dolphins are usually smart enough to avoid them.
Water pollution is also causing river dolphins to die out. Toxins in the human waste affect riverine vegetation and foraging fish. Fish that feed on foraging fish receive a more concentrated dose of the toxins. Since dolphins are apex predators in most of their habitats (i.e., no other fish feeds on dolphins), they receive the maximum amount of the poisons.
An often-neglected aspect of human impact on dolphin health is the use of sonar. While useful and virtually irreplaceable as an underwater navigation tool, sonar messes up with the dolphins' echolocation system. All dolphins use echolocation to a great degree, and sonar sound waves are said to cause potentially fatal injuries to dolphins.
How to Save Dolphins
As we are the ones who have dug a hole for these amicable creatures, it is our duty to help improve their condition. The first step in this direction would be to stop illegal hunting. There are laws preventing dolphin hunting in most countries, but illegal poachers still find ways to evade the enforcers.
This is a problem that is also threatening many other marvelous creatures, such as the white rhino and the Bengal tiger, and coordinated global efforts are needed to save not just endangered dolphins, but also other animals staring down the barrel.
Dealing with pollution is a tough ask, and also has to be dealt with at a global level. However, as the saying goes, charity begins at home, and we all can make our own contributions to reducing the effects of pollution.
Eventually, this problem can be improved by education and increase in consciousness about environment and an attitude of concern about other living creatures! If we are not empathetic and concerned about other creatures, then we are inviting doom unto ourselves.