A Gangetic river dolphin was found dead in Bangladesh’s Halda River Sanctuary on Sunday. This is the second dolphin death within the same river sanctuary since Bangladesh imposed a lockdown, sparking fear of a resurgence in the poaching of the endangered species. Previously, a dead river dolphin was found on March 21st in Chittagong, on the same river’s banks.
Gangetic river dolphins are known for their long beaks and are mainly found in the rivers of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of living river dolphins ranges from 1200–1800. The Halda River contains less than 200 of the total river dolphin population. Apart from poaching, indiscriminate fishing and construction of dams on the river systems inhabited by these dolphins also contribute to their dwindling numbers.
Locals from the southeastern town of Raojan, Bangladesh — also on the banks of the Halda — found the dolphin carcass with layers of its fat missing. This led authorities to suspect that the dolphins were killed for the supposed healing properties of the oil extracted from their fat. “Many local villagers believe dolphin fat can cure diseases. It fetches a good price,” Manzoorul Kibria, coordinator of the Halda River Research Laboratory (HRRL), told Al Jazeera.
Fishermen may have also found it easier to poach the species now, as already understaffed police forces had to choose to enforce the lockdown in Raojan over patrolling the sanctuary, according to what a local told Al Jazeera. Kibria also added that these poaching incidents might trigger a killing spree, putting the survival of the endangered species at further risk.
Bangladesh currently prohibits the killing of Gangetic river dolphins owing to their status as an endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.