The last freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin living on a section of the Mekong River bordering northeastern Cambodia and Laos has died, reportedly as a result of becoming entangled in a fishing net.
The dolphin was found dead on Tuesday on a riverbank in Stung Treng Province, near the border with Laos, according to Cambodia’s Fisheries Conservation Department.
Although provincial wildlife authorities were aware that the lonely animal had been unwell for more than a month, officials said a lack of specialized equipment and training meant providing assistance to the dolphin had proven difficult.
Srey Sam Vichet, head of the provincial Fisheries Administration, told Cambodian media yesterday that the dolphin was found dead near the shore close to where it had lived.
It had fallen ill and may have died because it suffered wounds from becoming entangled in a fishing net.
The freshwater dolphin population living in the Cheuteal transboundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia had been in steady decline.
The population was declared functionally extinct by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2016 after it was found there were too few potential breeding pairs available to ensure the survival of the population.
With the death of this last animal, the Irrawaddy Dolphin is now extinct in Laos.
Spotting Irrawaddy Dolphins, called “Pa Kha” in the Lao language, was once a popular tourism activity in Southern Laos.
Boats could be chartered from Don Khon Island among the famous Four Thousand Islands where the dolphins resided in deep Mekong pools near the Cambodian border.