City Votes For Dolphin

The Gangetic river dolphin today emerged as the people's choice for "city animal of Guwahati" over the greater adjutant stork (hargila) and black soft shell turtle.

Guwahati also became the first city to have its own animal.

The Kamrup (metro) district administration, in collaboration with a city-based NGO, Help Earth, had put up the three animals for selection through voting, which ended last night.

 

The stocky freshwater dolphin with a long thin snout and large, visible teeth received 24,247 of the 60,003 votes polled while the greater adjutant stork and black soft shell turtle won 18,454 and 17,302 votes respectively.

Besides online and voting through messages, voting booths at 76 schools and colleges in the city and one in the district administration's office were also set up. Several awareness campaigns were held," Help Earth's founder Jayaditya Purkayastha said.

Declaring the results this morning, Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu said, "The first step to preservation is awareness and by voting in such a large number, the city has taken one step in that direction." The district administration, Assam forest and police departments and Help Earth have charted out several awareness and conservative programmes to preserve the river dolphin and urban wildlife as a whole.

"We will make efforts next winter to find out the places where the river dolphin's prevalence is the highest. We will then devise ways to preserve the dolphins in that region and help increase their population," Purkayastha said.

For the river dolphin, an endangered species, it is its third honour. It is already the aquatic animal of the nation as well as of Assam.

A survey done by Aaranyak, a wildlife-based NGO, in 2012 had found 635 dolphins in the Brahmaputra. The animal has its home in the Ganga and Brahmaputra and their tributaries.

Aaranyak through its Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Initiative has been conducting conservation activities for the last 10 years, for which the population of the species has increased from 250 in 2005 to 635 in 2012.

One of the threats to the river dolphin is poaching for its body oil, which is used for "medicinal purposes" and fetches high prices. The International Union of Conservation of Nature had declared the animal endangered in 1996.

IUCN dolphin expert Abdul Wakid, who is the head of Aaranyak's conservation initiative, told The Telegraph that it was a good step and will help create more awareness on the river dolphin and the new government must take steps for its conservation.

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