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The Mekong don't have Melong

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Caliph
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    Posted: 18 Jun 2009 at 10:09
Excuse the terrible pun, I am genuinely annoyed about this story. It is not surprising, and has been on the cards now for years, but it seems that unless something drastic is done now, then the mekong are going to die out. And only then will many of the locals lament and mysticise the mekong, all when it's too late.
 
 
 

 

 

Mekong dolphins 'almost extinct'

Cambodian Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin ; pic courtesy WWF
The WWF says fewer than 80 dolphins are left ( Image courtesy WWF)

Pollution in the Mekong river has pushed freshwater dolphins in Cambodia and Laos to the brink of extinction, a conservation group has said.

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) said only 64 to 76 Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the Mekong.

Toxic levels of pesticides, mercury and other pollutants have been found in more than 50 calves that have died since 2003.

The Mekong flows from China through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

"These pollutants are widely distributed in the environment and so the source of this pollution may involve several countries through which the Mekong river flows," said WWF veterinary surgeon Verne Dove in a press statement.

Critically endangered

The group said it was investigating how contamination had entered the Mekong river, and called for a cross-border health plan for the dolphins.

Since 2003, the dolphin population has suffered 88 deaths, of which more than 60% were calves under two weeks old, it said.

"Necropsy analysis identified a bacterial disease as the cause of the calf deaths," Dr Dove said in the WWF report.

"This disease would not be fatal unless the dolphin's immune systems were suppressed, as they were in these cases, by environmental contaminants," he said.

Researchers found toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs during analysis of the dead dolphin calves.

These pollutants may also pose a health risk to human populations living along the Mekong - who consume the same fish and water as the dolphins - the group suggested.

High levels of mercury were also found in some of the dead dolphins, which directly affects the immune system making the animals more susceptible to infectious disease.

"A trans-boundary preventative health programme is urgently needed to manage the disease affected animals in order to reduce the number of deaths each year," said Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF Cambodia.

The Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin, which inhabits a 190 km (118 mile) stretch in Cambodia and Laos, has been listed as critically endangered since 2004, the WWF said.

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Carcharodon View Drop Down
Tsar
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Joined: 04 May 2007
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jun 2009 at 14:32
Hope these animals will not meet the same fate as the chinese Yangtze River Dolphin, Baiji, (Lipotes vexillifer) which was declared functionally exctinct 2006.
 
Even if a few specimens still live in the opaque waters of the Yangtze their future are for sure uncertain.
 
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Knights View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jun 2009 at 07:06
It is quite sad indeed. Apex predators are the first to suffer from things like pollution in river ecosystems. A process of bioaccumulation means that chemicals amplify in tissue as you go up the food chain, eventually getting to a fatal concentration at the level of the dolphins. This is especially the case with heavy metals and pesticides, as the article talks about a bit.

Tackling such a problem is extremely difficult, especially at this late stage where a Irrawaddy 'bottleneck' event is inevitable. The gene pool is so low that for the population to bounce back would raise severe genetic in-breeding issues. Also, reverting the human impacts which are causing the degradation of such ecosystems is very hard. Implementing nature management strategies in developed countries like Australia, is easy enough because we have the motivation and funding. But in say, Laos or Cambodia, their first priority is human development as a bare minimum - and this often is integral in the degradation and pollution of waterways. I think an integrated, holistic approach to the problem is most suiting. Targeting both human development and ecological rehabilitation as an interacting nexus will allow for improvements to be made in both aspects.

Some ideas? Well, introduction of more ecologically sustainable farming practices. Yes this term of ecological sustainability is thrown around a lot, so what I mean in simple terms is practice that will vastly reduce the current impact on waterways. Ecologically-sustainable alternatives to farming (methods and techniques) are growing increasingly efficient and cost effective, meaning that those in developing areas would not have to sacrifice their own well-being just to save a dolphin. This is key to the issue at hand - their first priority is sustaining their own livelihood over the lives of the dolphins and other river inhabitants. If you can increase quality of life (through more efficient farming/industrial techniques, for instance), it can reciprocate into the health of the waterways.

So much to discuss.

Regards,

- Knights -
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Carcharodon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jun 2009 at 12:20
As for the case of the Baiji several factors contributed to it´s tragical demise, as for example pollution, overfishing which affected the dolphins supply of prey, catching the Baiji by mistake in connection with fishing, illegal hunting, heavy traffic on the river that destroyd the environment and also posed a direct physical danger to the dolphins because of collisions, dredging, drainage and the building of regultations in the shape of dikes and dams.
Also several other species in the Yangtze and it´s tributaries are threatened, among them the Chinese Alligator and the Chinese Paddlefish.
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