Five baby Ayeyawady dolphins were spotted in the conservation area between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung recently, according to local fishermen.
“While guiding local and foreign travelers in the river, I saw two babies in a group of dolphins near Seinpangon Village, another two in a group of eight dolphins near Mingun, and one near Indaung Village,” said U Maung Lay, a local fisherman who is participating in the Ayeyawady dolphins-based community tourism.
A survey conducted in February this year had shown over 70 dolphins between Mandalay and Bhamo, and 24 of them were recorded between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung.
With the implementation of the dolphins-based community tourism between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung, the number of foreign visitors coming to watch cooperative fishing with the Ayeyawady dolphins has been on the rise this year, according to U Maung Lay.
While newcomers are found annually in the river, there are also deaths due to electro-fishing and fishing nets.
With a team conducting two rounds of inspections every month, the practice of electro-fishing is gradually declining in the area from Mandalay to Bhamo in the Ayeyawady dolphin protection zone, according to U Kyaw Hla Thein, who is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s dolphin conservation project.
A combined team, with members drawn from the Fisheries Department, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Marine Police Force (Mandalay), and other concerned organizations, is conducting the inspections and also organizing awareness campaigns.
In 2018, 10 fishermen were arrested and 32 fishing vessels, 37 electric fishing nets, 31 batteries, and 19 machines were seized between the Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung dolphin protection zone. The action was taken against eight more fishermen, and 18 fishing vessels, 8 electric fishing nets, 18 batteries, and 9 electric machines were confiscated. According to data recorded between January and July, the Mandalay Marine Police Force has taken action against 24 fishing boats for electro-fishing.
Six dolphin deaths were recorded in 2018. In February and May, two dolphins were reportedly killed out of the total 72 in the 400-kilometer area between the Mandalay and Bhamo dolphin protection zone. Dolphin breeding was also observed in the month of May. According to data recorded in February, 2018, there were 76 dolphins in the 400-kilometer area from Mandalay to Bhamo, which forms a part of the Ayeyarwady dolphin protection zone. —Aung Thant Khaing
(Translated by Kyaw Zin Lin)