Kolkata: The state Forest department will conduct a detailed survey of dolphins in the Sunderbans for the first time.
The decision comes in the wake of few tourists spotting dolphins in the creeks during their visit at Raidighi area in the month of May. Apart from the survey of dolphins, the Forest department will also conduct a survey of the avian species in the islands.
"This for the first time such a systematic and detailed survey of any other animal species apart from tigers in the Sunderbans is being conducted at the state level. The study will begin this winter and the Wildlife Institute of India will assist us in the survey," Dr R P Saini, director of Sunderban Biosphere Reserve (SBR), said.
There have been previous instances of dolphins getting entangled in fishing nets and getting killed. "Our aim is to save the dolphins from such untoward incidents. We will earmark a specific place for them so that tourists can also witness them," the official added.
SBR has over 200 recorded species of birds, some of which are endangered. The avifauna consists of herons, storks, green pigeons, sand pipers, plovers, seagulls, teals, a great variety of wild geese, ducks, kingfishers of six types and the like. Apart from these species, migrants from higher altitudes arrive in large numbers during winter. "The survey will involve both the resident species as well as the migratory ones," Saini said adding that avian experts will be roped in for the survey.
In both these studies, the Zoological Survey of India will be consulted from time to time for their expertise in faunal studies.
In 2010, a joint survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project had found as many as 225 Gangetic river dolphins, about 6,000 Irrawady dolphins, over 1,000 bottlenose dolphins and a significant number of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins in the rivers and canals of the Sundarbans. However, spotting dolphins by tourists has been a rare phenomenon in the past few years.
Researchers' inquisitiveness about the diversity of flora and fauna of the Sunderbans is increasing day by day. "We want to create a benchmark for research oriented studies regarding the Sunderbans," the official said.
Interestingly, in an effort to protect the dolphin population, the Bangladesh Forest department had created three dolphin sanctuaries covering around 32 square kilometres of the rivers and canals in the mangrove forest in 2012.