As of February 2012 the small country of Bangladesh has created 3 new wildlife sanctuaries specifically for the endangered freshwater dolphins in the Sundarbans (the Sunderbans are the world’s largest entact mangrove forest). The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been working in Bangladesh to pinpoint these locations and the thought is that this will greatly help these endangered species recover.

Royle Safaris offers you the chance of visiting the Sunderbans on our Bangladesh wildlife tour which explores the amazing Sunderbans forest and offers excellent chances of seeing both of these species as well as tigers, salt-water crocodiles, deer, monkeys and hundreds of birds.

The three new dolphin sanctuaries are set out to protect the last two remaining species of freshwater dolphins living in Asia: the Ganges River dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin. Both species have been disappearing from major portions of their range for the last few decades. However, there are sustainable populations of both species in the Sundarbans, which may now serve as a global safety net for preventing their extinction.

These 3 new wildlife sanctuaries plan to safeguard 19.4 miles of river channels with a total area of 4.1 sq miles being protected. The locations and sizes of the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans were determined according to a comprehensive study conducted by WCS and the Bangladesh Forest Department. The study found that the habitat of Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins were clumped in waterways where human activities are most intense; and therefore in the most urgent need for protection.

The director for WCS’s Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Programme recently said ‘Declaration of these wildlife sanctuaries is an essential first step in protecting Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh.’

‘As biological indicators of ecosystem-level impacts, freshwater dolphins can inform adaptive human-wildlife management to cope with climate change suggesting a broader potential for conservation and sustainable development.’

It is very important to protect this pristine habitats in the Sunderbans as the Yangtze River Dolphin was declared extinct only a couple of years ago, after not being afforded this level of protection in a rapidly developing country. Royle Safaris are committed to the preservation of habitats such as the Sunderbans and the conservation and research of wildlife in Bangladesh. This is why for every Sunderbans Cruise we conduct we donate money to numerous Bangladesh conservation societies.

The freshwater dolphins in the Sunderbans are threatened by numerous threats including fatal entanglements in fishing gear, depletion of their prey from the enormous bycatch of fish and crustaceans in fine-mesh nets used to catch fry for shrimp farming, and increasing salinity and sedimentation caused by rising sea levels and changes in the availability of upstream freshwater flow.

The development of these 3 new sanctuaries is very good news. Especially considering the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin whose last confirmed sighting was in 2002. Fatal entanglement in nets and habitat degradation killed off this species after having survived in China’s Yangtze River for more than 10 million years.

It is also important that sustainable Sunderbans cruises and other Bangladesh wildlife holidays and Bangladesh wildlife tours continue in this rapidly developing country to ensure the continued survival of Bangladesh wildlife especially the dolphins in the Sunderbans.

Throughout the world the freshwater dolphins are among the most threatened species because their habitat is highly impacted by human activities. River systems are under threat from dam construction and unsustainable fisheries, to name a couple of problems. In addition to conserving globally important populations of freshwater dolphins, the new wildlife sanctuaries in the Sundarbans will provide protection for other threatened aquatic wildlife including the river terrapin, masked finfoot, and small-clawed otter and of course the largest population of wild tigers left in the world. By joining any of our wildlife holidays and Bangladesh wildlife tours we will be taking you deep into the Sunderbans on a chartered Sunderbans cruise holiday and will have excellent chances of spotting wildlife including tigers and dolphins.

Since 2009 Bangladesh has been regarded as a cetacean hotspot, with the WCS announcing the discovery of the world’s largest population of nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in the country. A portion of this population shares habitat with the endangered Ganges river dolphin, whose range extends all the way upstream to the shadow of the Himalayas in Nepal.

If you are interested in visiting Bangladesh on a wildlife holiday or even just a week long cruise of the Sunderbans tehn Royle Safaris is the only sustainable tour operator who offers fully guided (by professional zoologisits) safaris to Bangladesh. So please see our range of Bangladesh Holidays for more details and information, including full itineraries and prices.

Leave a Reply