Abstract

Nepal is endowed with vast water resources in form of glaciers, lakes, streams and rivers. All the rivers in Nepal are connected to the Ganges River system of India. The major rivers are reliable sources of water and provide habitats for aquatic animals, opportunities for hydropower, and irrigation development in downstream regions. The major rivers of Nepal include the Koshi, Gandaki (Narayani), Karnali, and Mahakali which all drain from north to south. These rivers support abundant wildlife species as well as a number of fishes, amphibians and reptiles. Most relevant to this paper is the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica Roxburgh, 1801). The Ganges River Dolphin preys on fish, mollusks and other aquatic animals. Being a migratory species, the dolphins move from larger rivers to their tributaries, seasonally. This paper is intended to review work on the status of Ganges River Dolphin in Nepalese rivers based on secondary data obtained from different published surveys targeting the dolphin populations. The records show the Karnali River has the largest population, followed by the Koshi and Narayani rivers, with no record of dolphins occupying the Mahakali River in recent years. Recent surveys estimate about 100 dolphins living in Nepal, with 80 estimated in the Karnali River. Different anthropogenic activities including construction work, intensive fishing, pollution and the lack of conservation planning for dolphins have resulted in a decline in number from historic levels. The presence of this aquatic mammal is considered as an indicator of the overall health of the river system. The COVID-19 pandemic and lock down might have caused increased dolphin sightings. Additionally, high pre-monsoon precipitation in recent years have caused higher water levels in smaller rivers, possibly causing the dolphins to return earlier than usual to the major river systems. They were recorded to be present in the Mohana and other small tributaries of the Karnali River as early as first week of June.

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