Related News

Home » World

Mekong River poisoning raredolphin, say conservationists

POLLUTION in the Mekong River is putting the rare Irrawaddy dolphin in danger of disappearing from Cambodia and Laos, according to a study by an environmental group released yesterday.

A Cambodian government official, however, rejected the finding and demanded the group apologize.

The World Wide Fund For Nature Cambodia said it has documented 88 deaths in the past six years of the Irrawaddy dolphin or Orcaella brevirostris along a 190-kilometer stretch of the Mekong River.

The Irrawaddy dolphin, which is related to orcas or killer whales, frequents large rivers, estuaries, and freshwater lagoons in South and Southeast Asia. The population in the Mekong is could be as few as 64 members, the WWF said, down from 80 to 100 just three years ago.

Researchers from WWF Cambodia said they found levels of the pesticide DDT in the bodies of dead dolphin calves from the Mekong were 10 times higher than in a similar population in India, plus environmental contaminants such as PCBs. They also found mercury, a toxin used in gold mining that can compromise the immune system of marine animals, they said.

Calves die

The group said it was investigating the source of the pollutants, noting many calves died of bacterial diseases that only occur when immune systems are damaged. Many had black and blue lesions on their necks.

"The source of this pollution may involve several countries through which the Mekong River flows," said Verne Dove, the report's author and a veterinarian with WWF Cambodia.

Touch Sieng Tana, chairman of the Cambodian-run Commission for Mekong Dolphin Conservation, dismissed the findings and said there is no mercury, DDT or PCBs in the Mekong. He called on the WWF to apologize for suggesting that the Mekong was polluted.

"If the Mekong River is full of pollution, then all the Cambodians who use that water and drink it would have died," he said. "The WWF statement aims to destroy Cambodia and cause fear to foreigners who want to visit Cambodia."

Scientists do not know exactly how many Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the world although researchers recently found a population of nearly 6,000 near Bangladesh's mangrove forests.



Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend