Cambodia Joins International River Dolphin Declaration

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Prak David (front row, 3rd fromm left) signs the declaration for Cambodia at a meeting in the Colombian capital Bogota. Photo: MAFF

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia and 13 other countries from Asia and South America have adopted a declaration on river dolphins, aiming to safeguard the species and enhance the health of their rivers.

The Global Declaration for River Dolphins aims to halt the decline of the six surviving river dolphin species and increase the most vulnerable populations based on eight pillars, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said.

The pillars include creating a network of protected areas, enhancing management of river dolphin sites, expanding research and monitoring, engaging local communities and indigenous peoples, eradicating unsustainable fishing practices, improving water quality and quantity; celebrating #WorldRiverDolphinDay to raise awareness and increasing resource allocation and partnerships.

“This historic declaration creates a roadmap for the recovery of river dolphin populations across the globe —offering real hope for the survival of these iconic species despite the enormous threats they face,” said Stuart Orr, global freshwater lead for WWF, which is working with partners to support the declaration.

Ministry Secretary of State Prak David signed the declaration for Cambodia at a meeting in the Colombian capital Bogota.

Cambodia shared experiences in managing Mekong dolphins, focusing on the development of legal documents, research, law enforcement, ecosystem management, education, outreach and improving the livelihoods of local communities, it said. 

According to conservation group WWF, all river dolphin species are either critically endangered (Irrawaddy and Yangtze finless porpoise) or endangered (Amazon, Ganges, Indus and Tucuxi). A  seventh species - the Chinese river dolphin - was declared probably extinct in 2007.

In South America, the dolphin species live in Amazon and Orinico while in Asia they live in Ayeyarwady, Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Mahakam and Yangtze rivers. 

Cambodia hosts the largest number of Irawaddy dolphin in the Mekong, with the number standing at 89.

In the last four years, 28 Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins were born: nine in 2020, six in 2021, six in 2022, and seven in 2023. However, 33 were found dead from 2020 to 2023. Last year, 11 were found dead, which was the most deaths in the last four years.

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