These mangroves home to one of world’s dolphin ‘hotspots’ NEW YORK (January 14, 2011)—Threatened dolphins in Bangladesh Sundarbans are getting a public awareness boost from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project. The project is sponsoring an exhibition on dolphins for fishing communities along the world’s largest swath of coastal mangrove forest.
The event —called the “Shushuk Mela” or “Dolphin Exhibition”—will run from January 15-31. The exhibition highlights the recent discovery that Bangladesh is a global “hotspot” for cetacean (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) abundance and diversity.
“By building a strong constituency of support for dolphin conservation that also incorporates human needs, efforts to save these iconic species have a genuine chance of success,” said Brian D. Smith, Director of WCS’s Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program. “With a successful effort Bangladesh can serve as a critical safety net for cetaceans whose populations are disappearing elsewhere in Asia.”
The Sundarbans mangrove forest is located along the edge of the Bay of Bengal where the Ganges or Padma River meets the sea. Waters of the mangrove forest and adjacent coast are home to the world’s largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins, a discovery announced by WCS in 2008. The mangrove forest also supports a significant population of Ganges River dolphins. Both species are threatened with extinction in other parts of their range.
The first dolphin exhibition was held in the capital city Dhaka in 2008 and was attended by more than 10,000 people. The second exhibition will go “on tour” with a local wooden vessel that will visit communities in the Sundarbans adjacent to three proposed wildlife sanctuaries for the protection of Ganges and Irrawaddy dolphins. The exhibition will include life-size dolphin models, film shows, photographs, interactive games, and informative panels designed to increase support for the establishment of the wildlife sanctuaries.
“The enthusiasm demonstrated for cetaceans at the first Shushuk Mela was incredible,” said Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur, Education Director of WCS’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project. “We expect even greater interest from fisherman living in local communities who consider these animals to be their companions on the river and at sea.”
Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program, said: “These populations of Irrawaddy and Ganges River dolphins are critical for the long-term persistence of both species.”
WCS’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project seeks to ensure the long-term protection of the cetaceans in Bangladesh through collaborative efforts with local communities. These efforts are vital considering the importance of the Sundarbans as a buffer against the impacts of rising sea-levels and the role of the dolphins as indicators of environmental change.
Support for the Shushuk Mela has been provided in part by the Kerzner Marine Foundation and the Foundation for the Third Millennium.
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The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
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