Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kendrapara, Feb 16:
The maiden dolphin census carried out by wildlife and forest department officials in Odisha’s coastal eco-systems and shorelines has shown mixed results as several species of the aquatic mammal were spotted during the first ever enumeration at Bhitarkanika on Sunday, while there was zero sighting in other areas.
The dolphin census carried out for the first time at the Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary recorded at least six species of dolphins in the eco-system: Hump Back, Irrawaddy, Finless Porpoise, Bottle Nose, and Pan Tropical Spotted dolphins. However, no dolphin was sighted in the Mahakalpada region.
Nine teams consisting of 31 wildlife experts and forest department officials were constituted for the head count at the Bhitarkanika marine sanctuary of which five teams were assigned for enumeration in the coastal areas and four were pressed into service in the creek regions.
Besides, 18 teams consisting of 90 experts were involved in the dolphin census process at Chilika where Irrawaddy dolphins are sighted throughout the year.
‘‘The census started from 6 AM and continued till 2 PM. After receiving reports from these 18 teams, we would be in a position to arrive at a conclusion on the number of dolphins in the lagoon,’’ Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Chilika Wildlife Division, Bikash Ranjan Das said.
Based on reports from six divisions, the composite report on dolphin census will be published by the forest department within two days, an official said.
The brackish water lagoon was divided into four zones—northern, southern, central and outdoor channel—in which line transect direct sighting method was used for the headcount.
Seven teams were deployed in northern and one in outdoor channel zones for the census. These eight teams led by CCF Wildlife M Malath Mohan were sent to Satapada for enumeration of the mammal. Similarly, five teams each were engaged in Chandraput under central zone and southern sector led by CDA Chief Executive V Rajesh.
At least 12 Bottle Nose dolphins were sighted in the Chilika lagoon. However, the actual figures can be confirmed after the final report, an official said.
However, it was a disappointing day for the teams involved in the dolphin census along Puri coast. The forest officials undertook the census activities at Devi river mouth at around 9 AM on Sunday. The area was divided into three zones with eight members, led by a Forest Range Officer, deployed in each zone. The trawlers and two boats pressed into service for this purpose ventured at least 4 KM into the sea. The search teams—Devi river mouth to Chandrabhaga, Chandrabhaga to Puri and Puri to Chilika new mouth—continued their endeavour till 3 PM. However, there was zero sighting of the aquatic mammal till afternoon.
The enumeration of the dolphins was done at six forest divisions in the state–Baleswar, Brahmapur, Bhadrak, Puri, Chilika and Rajnagar and the area of census operation were extended from Udaipur in Baleswar district to Pati Sonepur in Ganjam.
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.
The census teams were armed with binoculars, global positioning system (GPS) equipment and data recording sheets apart from other essentials.