The recent scientific discovery has breathed both relief and optimism into the prospects for the species. World Conservation researcher Brian Smith said this of the reversal of fortune: “This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins. Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.” Researchers also noted that even with the very unexpected and most welcome news of the much larger population’s existence, the dolphins still remain threatened by a variety of factors such as fishing net accidents, climate change, and pollution of their habitats.
Irawaddy dolphins grow to about 8 feet in length and live in large rivers, lagoons and estuaries. In Myanmar they are known to act as sort of a river sheep dog in that they will help local fisherman herd fish into their nets, which creates larger hauls more efficiently. In exchange for their fish herding talents, the fisherman give them some of the haul.
The World Conservation Society is encouraging Bangladeshi policy makers to make the Sundarbans area where the dolphins live into a sanctuary for them, so they can live and thrive in a protected zone. The Sundarbans is one of the largest mangrove forests in the world.
Mohammad Jalilur Rahman, a Bangladeshi representative from their national fisheries research organization said of the idea, “The sanctuary may take time. But we are already motivating the fishermen not to harm the dolphins which get entangled in their nets.”