Featured Image Credit: Rhean Angelika Tandoc/ Facebook
Yesterday on a beach near Palwan in the Philippines, a critically endangered Irrawady dolphin was found dead. The dolphins tail appears to be tangled in some sort of fishing line, which could have most likely been the cause of its death. Marine mammal entanglement is a growing, serious problem, and the consequences can often be dire.
Contrary to what some people believe, this animal is not a true river dolphin, but an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish water near coasts, river mouths and in estuaries in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. While the Irrawaddy dolphin is similar to the beluga in appearance, it is actually most closely related to the killer whale.
The unique physical features of the Irrawaddy dolphin are its blunt, rounded head and their long and broad flippers. Unlike any other dolphin, the Irrawaddy’s u-shaped blowhole is placed on the left of the midline and opens towards the front of the dolphin.
The Irrawaddy dolphin has the highest level of international protection. All trade is forbidden, under international agreements. Some Irrawaddy dolphin populations are classified by the IUCN as critically endangered. It was reported back in 2012 that only 42 Irrawaddy dolphins were left in northern Palawan. These melon-headed dolphins
That’s what makes it so tragic when you see one of these rare mammals found dead from something that could have easily been avoided. It wasn’t that long ago either that a tanker carrying 75,000 gallons of oil collided with another boat in a rare dolphin Irrawaddy sanctuary in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh.
Despite the decreasing numbers for the Irrawaddy dolphin, there is hope. The Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network is a group of professionals and volunteers throughout the Philippines who are committed to responding to stranded marine mammals. While they work hard, they are underfunded and understaffed. To find out how you can help, visit their website.