© WWF-Thailand
River Dolphins
Where freshwater dolphin populations are thriving, it is likely that the overall river systems will be flourishing too, as well as all of the communities, companies and countless other species that depend on them.

However, there are only five species of river dolphins left in the world today, all assessed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Among them is the Irrawaddy river dolphin, only found in three rivers: the Irrawaddy, the Mahakam and the Mekong in Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia, respectively. Identifiable by their iconic bulging forehead and short beak, there are less than 300 of them left in the wild today. Though not directly hunted, they are often killed by entanglement in fishing gear or illegal fishing activities like electrofishing. And as their habitats are degraded by dam development, coupled with pollution from farming and mining, this iconic riverine species has become Critically Endangered.


What WWF is doing

By 2030, our goal at WWF is to restore Asian river dolphin populations by tackling major systemic threats including unsustainable fisheries, hydropower and other infrastructures, and pollution by:

  • Establishing baseline Irrawaddy dolphin population range data to better understand their habitats and protect them
  • Empowering local communities regarding river dolphins and environmental conservation
  • Catalysing political momentum to urgently address threats from water infrastructure, such as the Sambor and Stung Treng dams
  • Mapping major polluting industries to be targeted for the adoption of water stewardship and transformation of their business practices
  • Conducting a review of fishery policies and laws in river dolphin range countries and recommending changes to reduce impacts of fishing on dolphins
  • Improving protected area management to help sustainably manage fish and prevent dolphins from accidental capture
  • Building capacity for river guards to help track dolphins and enforce sustainable fishing practices
  • Promoting sustainable energy as an alternative to building more hydropower in the core habitats of the species