Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 15:
The forest and environment department today embarked on a dolphin census, dubbed as the first of its kind, in the coastal eco-systems and shorelines of Odisha apart from Chilika lagoon.
Encouraged by the presence of several species of the aquatic mammal, the state government had decided to take up enumeration at multiple sites, two coastal eco-systems—Chilika and Bhitarkanika – and off the Baleswar, Brahmapur, Bhadrak and Puri coasts.
‘‘The enumeration of the dolphins has begun today at various places, including six forest divisions in the state. The forest divisions are–Baleswar, Brahmapur, Bhadrak, Puri, Chilika and Rajnagar and the area of census operation would spread from Udaipur in Baleswar district to Pati Sonepur in Ganjam,’’ a forest official said.
As many as 12 species of dolphins were sighted off the Odisha coast of which at least six species – Irrawaddy, Finless Porpoise, Bottle Nose, Hump Back, Spinner and Gangetic species – have been recorded in Bhitarkanika and Rajnagar areas. The census will try to locate the pockets of their habitats in the coastal zones as well. Besides, it will aid in conservation strategies for the aquatic species, sources said.
A day prior to the census, the officials of the coastal DFOs, wildlife officials and other staff were imparted training on species identification, sighting and recording on Saturday to facilitate the census.
Nine teams consisting of 40 wildlife experts and the forest department officials have been constituted for the headcount at the Bhitarkanika marine sanctuary. This apart, three five-member teams have been formed to carry out the census along 150-km Puri coast. Besides, two trawlers and two boats will be pressed into service for this purpose.
The census teams have been armed with binoculars, global positioning system (GPS) equipment and data recording sheets apart from other essentials.
Notably, this year’s census is being conducted under the direct supervision of the Chief Wildlife Warden in active participation of the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and its forest division.
It may be mentioned that according to 2014 census, Chilika had recorded dolphin population of 158, followed by 152 in 2013, 145 in 2012 and 156 in 2011.