Freshwater dolphin comeback in Nepal

It is the best possible New Year 2022 present. A local nature guide in Nepal, Tek Mahato took several photos of a Ganges river dolphin in the Narayani River, the first time there has been photographic evidence of a dolphin in the river in years.

One of the country’s four largest rivers, the Narayani crosses the border into India as Gandaki, and used to be part of the species’ traditional range, which has dwindled considerably in recent decades.

Ganges river dolphins are now rare throughout Nepal. In 2016, the Department of Wildlife Conservation and National Parks estimated the river dolphin population in the country at 52 individuals: 43 in the Karnali River and its tributaries, and nine in the Kosi River. None were believed to still live in the Narayani River.

Indeed, it was only last year that we finalised the current distribution map of the Ganges river dolphin, just 3,500–5,000 of which now inhabit in the great Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basins.

The Narayani is coloured in purple (map below) for population extinct as no dolphins had been officially sighted in the river for ten years.

That is until the message about Tek Mahato’s remarkable sighting came in.

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