Know about India’s National Aquatic Animal

Pashu Sandesh, 17 October 2021

As the tiger is our national animal and peacock our national bird, Gangetic River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) is India’s National Aquatic Animal. On the 5th of October 2009, in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) on a proposal from the chief minister of Bihar Nitesh Kumar the Central Government declared this endangered species as India’s National Aquatic Animal. The formal notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on 10th May 2010.  

Due to severe population decline and to provide them with the highest degree of protection Gangetic River Dolphins are recognised as 'highly endangered' species in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). The Ganga River Dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system primarily in India and Bangladesh. Approximately 2500-3000 Ganges River dolphins are assumed to survive across their entire range. The Gangetic Dolphins are blind and catch their prey with the help of ultrasonic sound wavesThey can only live in freshwater. 

The government had declared Gangetic dolphins as the national aquatic animal as it represents the health of the rivers, particularly the Ganga. The Ganges river dolphin is important because it is a reliable indicator of the health of the entire river ecosystem. Since the dolphin is at the apex of the aquatic food chain, its presence in adequate numbers indicates greater biopersity in the river system and helps in keeping the ecosystem in balance. 

Project Dolphin- In his Independence Day Speech of the year 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin. Modi said in his speech that Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population. Such an initiative got in principle approval in December last year itself, at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC).

National Ganga River Dolphin Day- The National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates 5th October as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.

National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC)- For the conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphin,  National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) is coming up on the 4,400 square metre plot of land on the premises of Patna University, near the banks of the Ganga. On 30 June 2021, the interim office of the NDRC was inaugurated at the Dolphin research laboratory of the Zoology department of Patna University on Friday.

It will run under Dr Gopal Sharma, regional head of the Zoological Survey of India (Bihar & Jharkhand), and his team comprising PU teachers and researchers. 

Dolphin man RK Sinha, presently the vice-chancellor of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (Jammu & Kashmir) who was awarded Padma Shree in 2016 for his contributions to dolphin research, carried out pioneering activity for nearly over three-and-a-half decades in the same laboratory. 

'Dolphin Jalaj Safari'- On the occasion of Gangetic Dolphin Day (5 October 2020), National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMGCG) launched the 'Dolphin Jalaj Safari'.  Dolphin Jalaj Safari is launched at six places in the country, namely, Bijnor, Brijghat, Prayagraj and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Kahalgaon in Bihar and Bandel in West Bengal.

Dolphin Sanctuary- Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary notified in 1991, is located in Bhagalpur district of Bihar, India. The sanctuary is a 60 kilometres stretch of the Ganges River from Sultanganj to Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district. 

'Dolphin Mitra'- On the anniversary of the announcement of Gangetic Dolphin as the 'National Aquatic Animal of India' on, October 5, 2021, the World Wide Fund - India (WWF-India) announced a 'Dolphin Mitra' programme for the conservation of Dolphins in the upper stretches of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.