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Champassak extends dolphin conservation zone

Authorities and residents of Champassak province, especially those living in Hang Sadam and Hang Khon villages, Khong district, recently agreed to extend the conservation zone of the Mekong Dolphin, making it seven times larger.
The move has been taken in a bid to conserve the population of critically endangered Mekong River Dolphins (also known as Irrawaddy Dolphins).
Head of the Fisheries Division, Agriculture and Forestry Department of Champassak province, Mr Bounkeuth Khamphithak, spoke about the situation last week during a visit by officials involved in a project on the management of sustainable fisheries and aquatic natural resources in Siphandone (Phase II).
He said the authorities in Champassak province had played an important role in protecting dolphins over past decades.

This work has been supported by the World Wild Fund for Nature in Laos (WWF-Laos), which since 2009 has provided funding and equipment through various activities and projects for use in managing and conserving the dolphin population.
The province recently extended the dolphin conservation zone from 21 hectares to 150 hectares, roughly seven times bigger than the previous area. The objective is to provide the dolphins with a bigger habitat and more food, and make them less susceptible to human disturbance.
According to WWF survey teams from Laos and Cambodia, which recently conducted a dolphin abundance survey, there are currently just four dolphins remaining in Laos and 90 in Cambodia.
Mr Bounkeuth has worked for the dolphin conservation zone for almost 10 years since the beginning of the project. He said the team had observed these four dolphins for several years and the number did not seem to be increasing. This was partly because dolphin breeding habits are different from those of other aquatic creatures.
The conservation zone is adjacent to the two villages of Hang Sadam and Hang Khon where all forms of fishing are banned. The village authorities have river patrols that police the zone and ensure the ban is complied with.
Mr Bounkeuth urged people throughout the country, especially those living in Champassak province, to share in the work to protect this rare animal, partly because they are one of the iconic attractions for tourists in southern Laos.
He urged visitors who come to observe the dolphins to strictly follow the rules by not littering the river so as to keep the water clean and help the dolphins survive.
The best time to see dolphins is from December to May in the early morning from 6am-8am or in the evening when it’s cooler and there’s not much boat traffic. The dolphins appear very quickly, for about 2-4 seconds in every 3-5 minutes. Sometimes they come up quite close to a boat and sometimes further away but they are certainly visible and can occasionally be photographed.
Irrawaddy Dolphins can be found in some coastal areas in Asia but there are only three freshwater subpopulations, in the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, the Mahakam River in Indonesia, and the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
June 19,

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