A Brief Overview of Cetacean Research Activities in Bangladesh

January 2012:

Declaration of Wildlife Sanctuaries for freshwater dolphin in Eastern Sundarbans Reserved Forest

After months of anticipation, on January 29th 2012 three new wildlife sanctuaries (Chandpai, Dhangmari, and Dudhmukhi) were declared for the protection of threatened Ganges and Irrawaddy dolphins by the Ministry of Forests and Environment. The three wildlife sanctuaries safeguard 19.4 mi (31.4 km) of channels with a total area of 4.1 sq mi (10.7 sq km). The locations and sizes of the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans were determined according to a study conducted by the BCDP and published in the journal Oryx in 2010. This study found that the habitat of Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins were clumped in waterways where human activities are most intense. Declaration of the wildlife sanctuaries is a great success for our project and a triumph for cetacean conservation in Bangladesh, but it is only a first step. We are currently collaborating with local communities and government officials to develop and implement a science-based, community informed management plan that aims to conserve threatened freshwater dolphins, provide benefits for local fishermen, and inform adaptive human-wildlife management to cope with the impacts of climate change.


April 2010:

The Principal Researcher is invited to join the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group.


March 2010:

The Education & Training Coordinator participates in a workshop on the use of Acoustics for Irrawaddy dolphin Conservation in Bhubaneswar, India, where she gives two oral presentations.


February 2010:

The Government of Bangladesh acknowledges the importance of the proposed Protected Area Network for Freshwater Dolphins in the Sundarbans mangrove forest. They officially request BCDP to develop recommendations regarding effective and feasible regulations.


October 2009:

The BCDP Project Supervisor, Project Coordinator and the Conservator of Forest attended the Workshop for Asian Freshwater Cetaceans in Kalimantan, Indonesia, where they gave presentations and formulated recommendations for Bangladesh to be included in the workshop report.


July 2009:

The Principal Researcher is selected for the Global Fellowship in Marine Conservation, thereby receiving full scholarship to attend the summer course at the Duke University Integrated Marine Conservation Program.


March 2009:

The Principal Researcher is invited to participate in the first International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Hawaii, USA (30. March – 3. April 2009). Two oral and one poster presentation are given on cetacean research and conservation in Bangladesh and the PANCD.

WCS issued a press release announcing the discovery of almost 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh. This press release resulted in more than 200 newspaper articles worldwide, and at one point it was the fourth most popular story/search on the Yahoo website.

The BCDP Documentary ‘Shushuk: Rivers and Mankind’ is the first entry from Bangladesh at the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol/UK, and it was nominated for the best newcomer award at the 2009 Wildtalk Africa Film Festival.


October 2008:

The Education & Training Coordinator is selected for a fully funded month-long conservation leadership training focusing on developing market-based tools for conservation, the Kinship Conservation Fellowship.

First-ever 'Shushuk Mela', a four-day event in Dhaka introducing the Whales and Dolphins of Bangladesh to 10,000 visitors, including technical seminar and premiere of the educational documentary film 'Shushuk, Our Rivers and Mankind'. Presentation of Proposal for Protected Area Network for Cetacean Diversity (PANCD) submitted to the Government of Bangladesh.


November 2007:

Training for NGO field level staff, University students and representatives of various institutions and organizations for Educational Outreach and Capacity Building. Publication of educational materials in English and Bengali language for wide distribution.


July 2006:

The birth of the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP).

The Principal Researcher and Education & Training Coordinator are invited for an Internship at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, USA.


December 2005:

A photo-identification study of Bottlenose dolphins at the Swatch-of-No-Ground was initiated.


February 2005:

Spinner and Pan-tropical spotted dolphins recorded at the Swatch-of-No-Ground on a casual expedition.


January 2004:

Survey of the entire Bangladesh coast from Saint Martin's Island bordering Myanmar to the Sundarban mangrove forest bordering India, with 15 scientists from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Marine dolphins and whales discovered in good numbers and diversity at the Swatch-of-No-Ground.


September 2002:

Survey of Sundarban waterways during the post-monsoon in collaboration with IUCN Bangladesh.


February 2002:

First ever survey for dolphins in all the rivers of Bangladeshi Sundarban with scientists from India, Bangladesh, U.K. and USA. Brian D. Smith organized this epic research journey for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and was supported by Bangladesh Forest Department, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).


1996 - 2002:

Meeting of the Asian River Dolphin Committee in Rajendrapur, dedicated dolphin surveys of the Kaptai Lake, Karnaphuli, Halda, Sangu, Matamuhuri and Bagkhali Rivers and portions of the Jammuna and Kalni-Kushiyara Rivers, study on the impacts of water development of river dolphins, and seminar on River Dolphin Conservation in Dhaka.

For detailed project reports and publications please contact info@shushuk.org