Ganges River Dolphin

Ganges River Dolphin

Scientific name Platanista gangetica ssp. gangetica

Distribution Nepal, India and Bangladesh

IUCN Red List conservation status


  • Population: Possibly less than 3000
  • CITES category: Appendix I

Ganges River Dolphin

The Ganges river dolphin historically ranged from Ganges-Brahmaputra-Megna (GBM) and Karnaphuli-Sangu (KS) river systems, from the deltas upstream to where rocky barriers, shallow water, fast currents, dams, or barrages (low, gated, diversion dams) prevent upstream movement in Nepal, India and Bangladesh but now only remains in highly fragmented populations across Ganges and Brahamaputra river system. The species is extinct from most of its early distribution ranges.

Although the aggregate range-wide abundance of Ganges River Dolphins was estimated by Jones (1982) as 4,000–5,000 but a lack of reliable up-to-data suggests that this figure could actually be much lower, with possibly fewer than 2000 animals remaining in the wild.



  • River dolphins are essentially a blind species; they have tiny, non-functional eyes that lack lenses.
  • River dolphins use echolocation to detect food and navigate, and – to a very small extent – for communication.
  • River dolphins are top predators of freshwater ecosystems in South Asia and hence serve as a reliable indicator for healthy ecosystem.
  • River dolphins can act as population trend indicators in degraded freshwater systems.
  • Ganges river dolphin is threatened by habitat loss, by-catch in fishing gears, water pollution and poaching, particularly in upstream reaches of the smaller tributaries where they are isolated by dams and barrages.
  • As an indicator species for healthy freshwater ecosystem, their decline highlights human impacts on the environment, andthreats to local subsistence fisheries in South Asia

Did You know?

Ganges river dolphin lives in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. The species is legally protected throughout its range. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES and Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or the Bonn Convention). It’s hunting is strictly prohibited in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. It is a national aquatic animal of India. The species lives in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. It is threatened primarily by the damming of rivers for irrigation and electricity generation, which degrades habitat, isolates populations and prevents seasonal migration. Concerted conservation action is needed if this species is to survive.

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