Dolphins are unarguably one of the most beautiful and intellectually gifted creatures on earth. With elusive communicational skills, their language is far more extensive and complex than that of the human race. There are as many as 44 different species of dolphin; 38 oceanic dolphins and 6 types of river dolphin. One special member of this aquatic family is the Irrawaddy River dolphin.
Irrawaddy River dolphins (scientifically known as Orcaella brevirostris) are coastal creatures, recorded swimming delicately around areas in South and Southeast Asia. Common locations are the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong (Cambodia). These remarkable animals inhabit a 118-mile stretch of the river between Cambodia and Laos. Weighing in anywhere between 198 – 440 pounds and spanning a massive 6-9 feet in length, these guys would size you up for sure. Smaller numbers shape up their gnashes as they have a mere 12-19 teeth on each side of both jaws, for a total of around 48 – 76 teeth. Irrawaddy River dolphins can be spotted by their bulging forehead and noticeably short beak as their blue/grey skin crashes through the rippling waves. The average lifespan of these beautiful creatures is 30 years.
Irrawaddy River Dolphins are one of the rarest living creatures you will find out of the 1,100 species of fish in this river. This once considered endangered species is now at its highest population rate in the last 20 years! Animal conservationists are still not convinced that this charming creature is in the clear, therefore they continue to actively fight to reduce the risk of extinction. Irrawaddy River dolphins stay in family-sized groups of 3 to 6 members in which they will engage and strategically cooperate on hunts for sources of food and nourishment.
To support the everlasting existence of this intrinsically magical dolphin, fishing has been prohibited at all times in core dolphin habitats, with the entire Mekong river now declared as a protected zone by the Cambodian government. The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) worked in association with the government to support the law enforcement efforts, which solely combatted unsustainable practices. Some fishermen would previously use devices such as chemical poisons or even dynamite to catch their daily quota! A total of 32 river guards now mark the river banks to administer human behavior and help increase dolphin mortality rates.
Special not only to passers-by, this species is regarded as a sacred animal by both the Khmer and Lao natives. Fishermen in the area share a special bond with the dolphins, communicating with one another to practice what is known as ‘co-operative fishing’. This practice is studied in only three places in the entire world – it truly is a unique and bewitching phenomenon you can witness first hand on one of our fabulous Irrawaddy River cruises. The Irrawaddy River dolphins stick around all year long, a guarantee for you to catch a glimpse of them in their isolated habitat! River tourism is aiding the protection of these dolphins by supporting the eco-tourism projects in the area; an unforgettable experience for tourists helping to preserve local traditions and communities.
To discover The Irrawaddy Dolphin Conservation Area first hand you can take part in a specialized 3-day / 2-night itinerary on the stunning Irrawaddy Voyager. These exclusive journeys take you on a round trip through the Irrawaddy River, from Mandalay to Indaung and Mingun. Each day will be spent surrounded by the buzzing life of the Irrawaddy river banks as you venture towards the best Dolphin spotting area along the Irrawaddy.
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