The Irrawaddy Dolphin and Mekong River Conservation | WWF

The Irrawaddy Dolphin and Mekong River Conservation

The Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River.
© FiA / WWF-Cambodia

The Irrawaddy dolphin symbolizes the magnificence of the Mekong River and its continued high biodiversity. The latest population survey showed that only 80 Irrawaddy Dolphins inhabit the Mekong River. Even this low number would make the Mekong subpopulation the largest of only five remaining critically endangered freshwater populations of this species in the world.

The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) inhabits a 190km stretch of the mainstream Mekong River between Kratie, Cambodia and Khone Falls on the border with Lao PDR.

The Irrawaddy Dolphin as a Flagship Species

WWF has identified the Irrawaddy dolphin as a flagship species for the conservation of the Mekong River because these dolphins have certain minimum habitat requirements that reflect the health of the river ecosystem for other species, including humans: They require sufficient, undisrupted water, abundant prey, waters unobstructed by human activity and construction, and a clean river system. [Read more...]
	© Tan Somet Bunwath / WWF-Cambodia
Learn more about dolphins as a flagship species for conservation.
© Tan Somet Bunwath / WWF-Cambodia

Dolphin Ecology in the Mekong River

The Irrawaddy is a shy, small dolphin that is dark grey in colour with a paler underside, a small rounded dorsal fin and a bluntly rounded head. It can reach lengths of 2.75m, weighs up to 150kg, and normally lives in groups of up to 6. The Irrawaddy dolphin is one of only 3 whale and dolphin species that occupy both fresh and marine waters. [Read more...]
	© Gerard Ryan / WWF-Cambodia
Learn more about dolphin ecology
© Gerard Ryan / WWF-Cambodia

Threats to the Mekong population

The Irrawaddy Dolphin’s habitat preferences for freshwater and near shore marine environments make the species especially vulnerable to intensive human use and abuse. Living in very confined areas, freshwater populations are in particularly serious decline in terms of range and size. [Read more...]
	© Phay Somany / WWF-Cambodia
Learn more about threats to the Mekong's Irrawaddy dolphins
© Phay Somany / WWF-Cambodia

Conserving the Cambodian Mekong Dolphin

The Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation Project (CMDCP) is a collaborative effort between WWF, the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) and the Fisheries Administration that addresses the urgent need to conserve the Mekong dolphin by implementing the government’s Cambodian Mekong Dolphin Conservation Strategy. [Read more...]
	© Norng Sivuthan / WWF-Cambodia
Learn more about dolphin conservation
© Norng Sivuthan / WWF-Cambodia