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.
As a result, population decline in dolphins should ring alarm bells that all is not well in the river. Millions of Cambodians depend on the Mekong’s water for daily use and irrigation and use its fish as a key source of protein and income. To maintain these important resources for an expanding human population, the Mekong must function as a healthy ecosystem with high biodiversity. As the dolphin is generally revered by local people, the species makes a good flagship to mobilize support for broader river environment conservation issues.