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Conserving Dolphins and Whales in Bangladesh with Local Communities and Institutions –The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project

BCDP overview

Studies conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) identified a 120km-wide belt of estuarine, coastal and pelagic waters in Bangladesh as a hotspot for cetacean abundance and diversity that is in urgent need of conservation. This prime cetacean habitat extends across the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest, the Sundarban Reserve Forest, and offshore to a900m undersea canyon known as the Swatch-of-No-Ground. The area supports extraordinary whale, dolphin and porpoise diversity, and several species that occur here in significant numbers are regionally at risk.

The diversity of cetaceans occupying this relatively small area is remarkable, and rigorous abundance estimates indicate that largepopulations of several species remain. In fact, the Irrawaddy dolphin population in Bangladesh is probably the world’s largest by an order of magnitude. However, optimism about the long-term survivability of cetaceans in these waters is tempered by increasing threats fromincidental killing in gill-net fisheries, depletion of prey due to loss of fish and crustacean spawning habitat and to massive non-selective catch of fish fingerling and crustacean larvae. An additional threat is declining freshwater flows from upstream abstraction and the compounding effects of sea-level rise. The Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) seeks to ensurethe long-term protection of cetacean diversity while the current population sizes of several species at risk are known or appear to be sufficient for long-term persistence if threats can be reduced. With a successful effort, Bangladesh could serve as a critical safety net for freshwater and coastal cetaceans whose populations are disappearing elsewhere in Asia.The strategy of the project is to work closely with government agencies, fishing communities, local NGOs and nature tourism operators to develop and implement a conservation plan that protects the range of cetacean diversity inhabiting the estuarine channels of the Bangladesh Sundarban and surrounding marine waters including the Swatch-of-No-Ground. Major emphases are on (1) conducting sound science for supporting development of a conservation plan that includes establishing a protected area network, (2) involving and providing training and technical support to local scientists, resource managers and nature tourism operators to execute effective conservation actions and conduct rigorous research and monitoring; (3) consulting with and enlisting the support of government officials and local people for implementing the Protected Area Network; and (4) communicating research results and conservation progress through publication of technical papers and production of popular media. If you are interested in supporting BCDP or want to learn more about our work, please visit www.shushuk.org.

This information is provided by Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur environmental educator.

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Posted in Bangladesh, Education and qualification, Performance and management, Sustainability.


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