The population of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins have grown to 223 from about 175 last year. This was revealed in a census conducted by the Vikramshila Biodiversity Research and Education Centre (VBREC). Gangetic river dolphins are India’s national aquatic animals. They are poached regularly for their flesh and oil, which is used as an ointment and aphrodisiac. Their carcasses wash up on shore regularly. There are only 2000 river dolphins left, down from tens of thousands a few decades ago. The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The others are found in Yangtze river in China, Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon in South America. The Gangetic species is blind and finds its way through echolocation. Increased presence of dolphins indicates a healthy ecosystem, as the dolphin is an apex predator.
Gangetic Dolphins (known as Soons by Locals) are classified as Endangered on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and included in Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The species is morphologically and taxonomically distinctive, and being the only blind cetacean, is dependent on echolocation for locomotion, sensory perception and feeding.