The water in the Cox’s Bazar sea beach is the clearest it has been in years. Amid this pandemic, there is something to smile about and that is, dolphins returned to our coasts. In mid-March, a large number of dolphins -- 25 to 30 -- were spotted near the Cox's Bazar beach. There were pink dolphins, wingless porpoise, whirling dolphins, humpbacked dolphins and what not! They were all deep sea dolphins.
People were overwhelmed by the sight. The pictures of happy dolphins were flooded in social media and various news media.
Unfortunately, those media reported within two weeks about how some fishermen brutally killed couple of those dolphins.
To be precise, there is not much change in nature in just two months. There has always been several species of dolphins from Cox's Bazar to Sonadia. One study found that there are pod of dolphins in the area. The school has just came a little closer to the beach during the lockdown. Two dolphins died in Cox's Bazar on 2 and 3 April. Attempts were made to create confusion by spreading pictures of some pictures of dolphins from other countries on social media.
Dolphins are one of the main resources of any river or sea. The aquatic condition of the river can be estimated by looking at the dolphins. In the part of the river where there are more dolphins, there are also more fish. Fishes breed well because of dolphins. The quality of water improves for them. Fishermen also know that they get more fish because of these animals. The presence of dolphins means that the aquatic environment is normal.
There are seven species of dolphins and one species of porpoise in Bangladesh. Of these, the only real freshwater dolphin is the Gangetic dolphin. They live in almost every major freshwater river in Bangladesh. The animal is now endangered on the IUCN red list worldwide. However, their condition in Bangladesh is not bad yet. There are about 225 dolphins in Sundarbans only. Another 1000 dolphins live in other rivers, which is about one-third of the living dolphins in world.
Another species of dolphin is the Irrawaddy dolphin. Although the animal is endangered all over the world, the condition is not bad in Bangladesh. It is estimated that there are about 7,000 Irrawaddy dolphins. They are found in saltwater rivers, especially in the Sundarbans and coastal rivers.
The other four species of dolphins and one species of porpoise are all sea dolphins. Their presence is quite good in the deep sea, especially in the Swatch of No Ground. We do not have any actual data of dolphin census, though. There is another species of whale in Bangladesh called Bryde’s whale. Originally found in the deep sea, locals found a dead baby Bryde’s whale in Cox's Bazar beach last month.
Researchers say we can now see more dolphins near the shore as human movement is low. Fishermen also get into the water less than before. Dolphins can move freely because of that.
The Bangladesh government has declared nine reserve spots for dolphin conservation. Such initiatives to protect dolphins are very rare in the world. If we can protect them, the dolphins will move and breed freely and the production of fishes will boost, as well.
*Seemanto Dipu is a wildlife researcher. This piece originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat