Save the Mekong Dolphin from Extinction

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Demand Laos and Cambodia take action to protect the Irrawaddy dolphin's habitat from contamination.

The small freshwater Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin is a critically endangered species, and could be soon extinct. In fact, only about 89 of these animals remain alive on Earth, living in an 118-mile stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos.

The small freshwater dolphins, which are distinguished by their round heads and short dorsal fins, are most commonly threatened by gill nets, development of upstream dams, overfishing, and illegal fishing practices1.

Gillnet entanglement is the main cause of adult mortality, but polluted waters have caused far more insidious problems for the dolphins2.

Pollutants in the Mekong River, dumped in the water from Cambodia through southern Laos, are compromising the animals' immune systems and contributing to the death toll. The dolphins are exposed to chemicals and sewage released from adjacent terrestrial activities, not to mention noise and disturbance associated with construction, vessel traffic and military activities3.

Toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs were found during analysis of the dead dolphin calves -- these pollutants may also pose a health risk to human populations living along the Mekong that consume the same fish and water as the dolphins. High levels of mercury, which is dumped in the river from gold mining activities, were also found in some of the dead dolphins. The mercury directly affects the dolphins' immune system, making the animals more susceptible to infectious diseases4.

The Mekong River is home to 1,200 fish species and has the second highest concentration of aquatic animals in the world, after the Amazon. The Irrawaddy dolphin feeds on those fish and crustaceans, but its food supply is highly threatened due to overfishing and dams. Therefore, maintaining healthy fish population and diversity is important to the Irrawaddy dolphin's survival3. Likewise, the protection of the Irrawaddy dolphin is crucial for the overall health of the Mekong River. The Irrawaddy dolphin is also regarded as a sacred animal by both Khmer and Lao people, and is an important source of income and jobs for communities involved in dolphin-watching ecotourism5.

The Mekong River Irawaddy dolphin has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2004, the highest international threat ranking for endangered species. If action is not taken soon, it will disappear forever.

Take action today! Sign the petition below and tell the Prime Ministers of Laos and Cambodia to implement laws to protect the Mekong Dolphins' habitat from contamination.

More on this issue:

  1. World Wide Fund For Nature (23 October 2020), "Numbers of critically endangered Mekong river dolphin stable."
  2. IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group (February 2013), "Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphins."
  3. Endangered Species International (2018), "Bringing back the Irrawaddy dolphin."
  4. World Wide Fund For Nature (18 June 2019), "Mekong dolphins on the brink of extinction."
  5. World Wildlife Fund (2021), "Irrawaddy Dolphin Facts."
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The Petition:

Dear Prime Ministers of Laos and Cambodia,

I ask you to swiftly implement laws to stop contaminants from being dumped in the Mekong River. The river's pollution is taking the Mekong dolphin to near extinction - the dolphin population has suffered 88 deaths since 2003, of which over sixty percent were calves under two weeks old. The current population is estimated to comprise no more than 89 dolphins.

I urge you to take action against gold mines and several other industries that dump hazardous chemicals in the river. Pollutants such as DDT, PCBs and mercury where found during analysis of the dead dolphin calves, and they represent a threat not only to this marvelous dolphin species, but also to the health of the human population that consumes the fish caught in the area.

The preservation of the dolphin's habitat needs to be enforced with stiffer penalties for those who break the law.

It would be a great tragedy if we couldn't show these beautiful animals to future generations -- please act now before the Mekong dolphin becomes extinct.


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21,035 signatures sent on 7/13. Please continue to support this important cause by signing if you haven't already. Thank you!
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