Pollution in the Mekong River has pushed the local population of Irrawaddy dolphins to the brink of extinction, a new report by WWF has revealed.
The Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) population inhabits a 190km stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Lao PDR. Since 2003, the population has suffered 88 deaths of which over 60 percent were calves under two weeks old. The latest population is estimated between 64 and 76 members.
"Necropsy analysis identified a bacterial disease as the cause of the calf deaths. This disease would not be fatal unless the dolphinâ€™s immune systems were suppressed, as they were in these cases, by environmental contaminants," said Dr VernÃ© Dove, report author and veterinarian with WWF Cambodia.
Researchers found toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs during analysis of the dead dolphin calves. These pollutants may also pose a health risk to human populations living along the Mekong that consume the same fish and water as the dolphins.