Ganga River Dolphin Day: A step towards its conservation & protection


October 5th is observed as Ganga River Dolphin Day and it is celebrated every year to create awareness among people about our National Aquatic Animal "The Gangetic Dolphin" and sensitizes them towards their protection. This article gives brief details about Gangetic Dolphins, their habitat distribution, conservation status and initiatives took by the Central and State governments.

Central Government declared Ganga Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal on October 5th, 2009 in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) as it represented the physical condition of the rivers, particularly the Ganga. Subsequently, the species notified as to the National Aquatic Animal on the 10th of May 2010. The step was taken by the government to save this endangered species from extinction.

About Ganga River Dolphin

The Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) lives in deep waters, in and around the meeting point of two or more rivers. The species is distributed in the Gangetic-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli – Sangu River systems in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Dolphins have a sturdy and flexible body and weigh up to 150 kg. The dolphins are usually blind and catch their prey by emitting an ultrasonic sound.

Once, thousands of individuals were present but due to massive killing, poaching and habitat degradation and fragmentation by the development of dams and barrages, the population of the species have declined up to 2000, during the last century. The discharge of the industrial effluent directly into the river was also one of the main causes. Dolphin represents the biodiversity of river aquatic system as it comes at the top of the food chain.

Taxonomic Classification of the Species

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Infra order: Cetacea
Family: Platanistidae
Genus: Platanista
Species: gangetica

Conservation Status of Gangetic Dolphins

Gangetic Dolphins (Platanista gangetica) is included in Part I (8-D) of schedule I of Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. As per the IUCN red list of threatened species 2019 Gangetic Dolphins are kept under endangered species (an animal or a plant species that are facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild). It has also been included in Appendix I of Convention on International Trades (CITES) in endangered species of wild flora and fauna and Appendix II of Convention of Migratory Species (CMS)

Reason for Declaration of Ganga River Dolphin Day

The main reason behind the declaration of Gangetic dolphins was to prevent the animals from the risk of extinction. As these are rare species occurs mainly in the River Ganga, River Brahmaputra and their tributaries. It has been declared as the national animal, but still is at risk of falling prey to poachers and killing without intention after being trapped in fishes net and hit by the machines. They are also being killed by poachers at an alarming rate for their flesh, fat and oil.

Government Initiative:

Several initiatives are being undertaken by the Central and State Governments like:
  1. Government Department including Forest Department and other agencies such as World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly known as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conducts a programme of Census of Dolphin in the rivers and their tributaries from time to time to know the exact population of the species, so that they can be saved from extinction.

  2. One more initiative in this direction has been taken by the Government of Bihar by the establishment of National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) at Patna University Campus, Patna, Bihar on the banks of the River Ganga.

  3. Cleaning of River Ganga to make sure the survival of the species.

  4. Earlier in the year 1997, Ministry of Environment & Forests Government of India launched Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Programme to prepare a scientific database to evaluate the status, habitat and distribution of the species.

  5. A sanctuary named Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, located in District- Bhagalpur, Bihar is dedicated towards protection and conservation of dolphins. This sanctuary is spread over an area of 50 km along the Ganges.


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