Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Philippines Are Vanishing and They Need Help
For many years, Irrawaddy dolphins were not thought to exist in the Philippines, until a pod was sighted off the coast of Iloilo in 2007, and then in Guimaras in 2010. Then, in 2013, marine biologists were thrilled when a pod of 20 Irrawaddy dolphins was sighted in the waters of Palawan. It was one of the largest groups ever sighted in the world for such a rare species.
But Irrawaddy dolphins are facing rapid extinction because of abandoned fishnets in the sea, poaching, and ocean plastic pollution.
What are Irrawaddy Dolphins?
Irrawaddy dolphins are relatively small species of dolphins found around Asia, including the Philippines. Unlike common dolphins, they have short beaks, like the belugas. They also have broad and rounded flippers. Irrawaddy dolphins are also closely related to orcas or killer whales, which are considered the largest species of dolphin.
Irrawaddy dolphins were once thought to thrive only in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, from which they got their name. The Irrawaddy dolphin is an ocean dolphin that can survive in freshwater environments, which is why it can be found in estuaries, deltas, and rivers too.
Saving the Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Philippines
Irrawaddy dolphins are classified as "Endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Species. This means the dolphins are slowly going extinct because of human activities.
On December 2, the Earth Island Institute Asia Pacifica launched a petition to save the Philippine Irrawaddy Dolphins. According to the Institute, at least 10 Irrawady dolphins are left in Negros Occidental, and their death rate of one individual per year just can’t keep up with their rate of reproduction.
“For the last two years, three Irrawaddy dolphins have died, including a juvenile last 25 September 2020,” wrote the Institute on its petition page. The Institute is calling on the government to take swift action to protect the species.
Among the demands in the petition are declaring the entire habitat of the Irrawaddy dolphins as a Marine Protected Area, banning boats and fishing in the area, and conducting regular monitoring of the species.
As of this writing, the Institute has collected 6,266 signatures from scientists, environmentalists, animal welfare organizations, and concerned Filipinos.