Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is Sarawak an Irrawaddy Dolphin Hotspot?

Irrawaddy dolphins are among the most vulnerable dolphins in the world owing to the fact that their habitat of inshore waters coincides with areas of intensive human activity. The World Conservation Union’s 'Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002-2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World’s Cetaceans' states that the identification of “hotspots” where Irrawaddy dolphins occur in relatively high density is essential for conservation.

With Irrawaddy dolphins regularly sighted in a number of river systems and estuaries in the State, Sarawak could well be one of these hotspots. Whilst further research is required to determine this, the existence of Irrawaddy populations in various locations along the coastline means that Sarawak has a chance to play an important role in the conservation of the Irrawaddy dolphin.

This will require a concerted effort from a range of stakeholders - relevant government agencies, local communities, NGOs, research institutions and the tourism industry. Whilst funding is always a problem with any conservation initiative, international funding may be available owing to serious threats faced by the Irrawaddy across its distribution range.

Currently Sarawak attracts visitors from around the world who come to enjoy its national parks and the wildlife that inhabits its forests. Hornbills, Proboscis monkeys and Orang Utans have become popular icons for Sarawak. Perhaps one day the Land of the Hornbills may also be famed for a unique dolphin that inhabits the brackish waters of its coastline.

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