Around 150 people in 18 teams took part in the dolphin survey from 5-7 October for WWF-India's 'My Ganga, My Dolphin' campaign (supported by the HSBC water programme).
The survey was prompted by the worrying rapid decline in the number and distribution of dolphins across India. Back in 1982 there were an estimated 4,000-5,000 river dolphins in India. Now it's less than 2,000 - with an annual mortality rate of around 130-160 animals.
The Ganges river dolphin, also called the 'Susu' or 'Soons', is a native of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna river systems. It prefers to stay in deep waters around the confluence of two or more rivers - and is often hard to spot.
Sometimes referred to as the 'Tiger of the Ganges', the river dolphin is an 'indicator' animal - its presence is a sign of a healthy river ecosystem.
Categorised as 'endangered' by the IUCN, the Ganges river dolphin is legally protected, but is increasingly adversely affected by various activities on and around the river - such as dam construction, indiscriminate fishing, heavy siltation of rivers due to deforestation, pollution and habitat destruction.
WWF-India adopted it as a species of special concern in 1997and initiated a Ganges River Dolphin Conservation programme, conducting the first ever scientific survey of dolphins in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh back in 2005. The new census will be useful for developing an action plan for dolphin conservation in the area.
Latest Ganges dolphin survey results
As WWF-India's CEO Ravi Singh explains, the latest survey was a challenging task, but the results - as well as showing an overall total of 671 dolphins - reveal some interesting trends.
Some stretches of river have reported fewer dolphins, while in others - where there have been protective steps taken by communities, forest departments etc - the dolphin population is reported to be stable.
For instance in Upper Ganga, from Bijnore to Narora, and Chambal and Katarniaghat Sanctuary, which is a protected area, the population has stabilised. But in Yamuna and Ghagra, where there are a lot of development pressures, the population has shifted.
WWF-India would be glad to work with the government and local communities to develop a framework for conservation of dolphins and aquatic biodiversity in rivers of Uttar Pradesh, including the Ganga."
Ambitious aims can be achieved when the government, communities and civil society collaborate and work together.
Shri Akhilesh Yadav, the Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has stated that the government is "consistently working towards conserving nature and wildlife" - especially the Gangetic river dolphins - and "promote public participation through ecotourism."