THE RIVER DOLPHIN “HIHU”
(VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3) ISSN 2455 – 2135
By – Prabal Pratim Mahanta
“A pair of dolphins swept by us in the water, flicking their heads out to get a look at us as they went. One of them made a chittering sound that wasn’t very melodic. The other twitched its tail and splashed a little water our way, all in good fun. They weren’t the attractive Flipper kind of dolphins. They were regular dolphins that aren’t as pretty and don’t get cast on television. Maybe they just refused to sell out and see a plastic surgeon. I held up a fist to them. Represent.”
― Jim Butcher, Author
Since I was a child, I always dreamt of swimming with one of these elegant creatures of God. These playfull and intelligent creatures can carve their path into anyone’s hearts. Yet, this mammal is on the brink of extinction in today’s date.The river dolphin, locally known as Hihu, is one of the four species of obligate dolphin and the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries the Kulsi and the Subansiri, and the Ganges plays a host to this remarkable creatures. Usually very shy, the Hihu can be spotted from far away because of its agility and its tendency to ascend the water surface. Their navigation system is the most efficient and expansive of all mammals. Their sonar sense is upto such a limit, that they search for food and travel via Echolocation.
There used to be a time when this fauna used to be a common sight in various parts of the Brahmaputra river, starting all the way from Sadiya. But recent reports asserts that only around 400 are left of those there are in the Brahmaputra and around 600 in the Ganges. Constant poaching have decreased the rate of these mammals at an alarming rate, while factors like flood, dams are always a threat. The Gangetic dolphin has a poor eyesight, and hence it is a herculean task to tame them, unlike their cousins, the marine dolphins up west. Dolphin oil is considered very valuable and is used for the cure of rheumatism and making bait for catching smaller fishes. Approximately 100 dolphins are slaughtered each year in the Brahmaputra region alone.
It is never too late to start, and such is the case in the preservation and safeguarding of this endangered species. Its not the fishermen and the local people who are to be held solely responsible for the catastrophe. The government must take necessary steps to provide alternate livelihoods for the fishermen and proper awareness must be spread among the youth. The dolphin is the second most intelligent living creature on this planet, only after humans and it would be a great shame to let this species suffer and diminish gradually.
The river Brahmaputra stands embellished, boasting of one of the largest marine life in the world. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect its grandeur. We have unlocked only a part of their intelligence, what if we gave them more time. The dolphin is protected under Indian Wildlife Act, and any offense is punishable by law. Save the dolphins, they are not ours to kill. They deserve their place in the ecosystem as much as we do. Saving a dolphin is considered to be a spiritual task, and its time we do something about it.
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