Breaking! Myanmar Expands Protected Area For 76 Critically Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins Living In The Ayeyawady River

Irrawaddy Dolphins in Myanmar. CREDIT: WCS

Working in collaboration with Myanmar’s Department of Fisheries (DoF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has announced the creation of a new protected area for a population of critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins living in the Ayeyawady River of central Myanmar.

Sadly, earlier this year, conservationists counted a total of 76 Irrawaddy dolphins living in the Ayeyawady River between the river towns of Mandalay and Bhamo.

The new 100-kilometer (62 mile) zone will serve as an extension to an existing protected area established in 2005 between the towns of Mingun and Kyauk Myaung in collaboration between DoF and WCS.

“Establishment of the new Ayeyawady Dolphin Protected Area demonstrates the significant commitment of the Myanmar Government to conserve this charismatic species of the Ayeyawady River,” Saw Htun, Deputy Country Program Director, WCS Myanmar Program said in a statement. “WCS will collaborate with all stakeholders on coordinated efforts to save the threatened Irrawaddy dolphins in existing and new protected areas.”

To establish the new protected area, DoF and WCS consulted with over 50 villages along the river. Based on those meetings the protected area status was agreed for a 100 kilometer stretch of the river from Male to Shwegu, with a further 100 kilometers designated as a less restrictive buffer area.

Within the new protected area, use and size of gillnets are restricted to prevent dolphins from getting entangled, sometimes drowning. In addition, other methods like electric fishing and the use of dynamite and gold mining are strictly prohibited along with damage of habitat such as sandbars, grasslands, and vegetation.

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