Save the Irrawaddy Dolphin Project

Irrawaddy Dolphin
An Irrawaddy dolphin

Conservation, education, and research have always been the cornerstone of Marine Life Park. We are delighted to embark on our first ever marine animal research and conservation project.

The mission?  To save the Irrawady dolphins in the Songkhla Lake along Thailand’s eastern coastline. This is in collaboration with the Chulalongkorn University Thailand and Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Current analysis of these well-known yet rarely studied dolphins shows that the population is severely compromised, if not facing extinction, from environmental degradation and pollution. The rapidly deteriorating situation leaves the Thailand Irrawady dolphins living in a habitat spanning only about 2-meters deep and 9 sq km wide, a small fraction of the 460 sq km lake. They have a mortality rate of five to 10 dolphins each year over the past 12 years, over fifty percent of them from fishing net entanglements.

The mission to save the Irrawaddy Dolphins rests on the shoulders of Dr Nantarika Chansue, a leading veterinarian and biologist in Southeast Asia and the Director at the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Centre of Chulalongkorn University.

Dr Alfonso Lopez (left) and Dr Nantarika Chansue after signing the agreement
Dr Alfonso Lopez (left) and Dr Nantarika Chansue after signing the agreement

This collaboration came about when a conversation between Dr Alfonso Lopez, chief veterinarian of the Marine Life Park, and Dr Nantarika and revealed the plight of the Songkhla Lake. The Marine Life Park brings in of its expertise, providing much technical, logistical, and administrative support to conduct an extensive assessment of the dolphin’s natural habitat.

“The Marine Life Park, through its conservation programmes and initiatives, aims to benefit not just Singapore but the region,” said Dr Alfonso. “Our marine mammal veterinary team is able to provide the aid, as well as contribute to such species studies in massive ways. Marine Life Park will work closely together with the scientific community to provide viable recommendations to preserve nature and its inhabitants. We have supported a number of global marine conservation projects, but this will be our first marine mammal field research. We are excited about it.”

Dr Nantarika weighs in on the project:

The initial effort will begin in 2013 with population assessment to evaluate the current range, population and investigations of events impacting these dolphins in recent years. These findings will then help determine and define long-term strategy to provide these dolphins the highest probability of survival.

Follow the team on their 5-day expedition here

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