KENDRAPARA: The Forest department will carry out dolphin census in the water bodies of Gahiramatha marine sanctuary within Bhitarkanika National Park here on January 19.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the park Bikash Ranjan Dash said nine teams have been formed to conduct the one-day exercise. The first dolphin census was carried out in Gahiramatha in 2015. However, the Forest department had to cancel the exercise in 2016, 2017 and 2018 due to bad weather.
“In 2015, we had counted 270 dolphins in Bhitarkanika National park and its adjoining Gahiramatha. We had sighted 58 Irrawaddy dolphins, 23 Bottlenose, 123 Sousa Chinensis, 50 Sousa Plumbera, 15 pan tropical spotted dolphin and one Finless porpoise,” said Dash.
The 2015 census report revealed that Bhitarkanika was home to the State’s largest dolphin population after Chilika lake which had 144 Irrawaddy dolphins. More dolphins were found in Gahiramatha due to its large area, the DFO informed.
However, in 2019, the dolphin count in water bodies of Gahiramatha decreased to 126. “The sighting of dolphins depended on the weather condition on the particular day when the census was carried out. The reduction in the number of dolphins in 2019 as compared to 2015 was due to bad weather and dense fog,” Dash said.
The Gahiramatha was declared a marine sanctuary in 1997 by the State Government to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. Every year, the Government imposes a fishing ban inside Gahiramatha from November 1 to May 31 to protect the turtles. The seven-month fishing ban also helps in boosting the population of dolphins in Gahiramatha, he added.
Dolphins are commonly sighted in the water bodies of Khola, Nalitapata and Dhamara of Bhitarkanika and in the sea near Satabhaya, Pentha, Agaranashi, Eakakula and Hukitola within Gahiramatha.