Updates on progress made on the recommendations of the IWC Task Team Report on South Asian River Dolphins (May 2020 - April 2021
South Asian River Dolphin Task Team
In 2018-19, a task team on South Asian River Dolphins of the genus Platanista was formed with the objective “to coordinate research and conservation efforts for South Asian river dolphins across all range countries”. The first meeting of the task team took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August 2019, and their report was approved by the IWC Sc. 68B in May 2020 (conducted virtually). The report made ten priority recommendations towards addressing the major knowledge gaps that affected science and conservation objectives for these endangered species.
Upon the recommendations made during the IWC Sc. 68B, the task team was expanded to include a significant number of new members, taking the strength of the team to about 22. The members included scientists and conservationists from the four range countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. However, throughout 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, it was not possible to conduct a meeting of the task team. There were some online interactions between task team members, but unfortunately, it was not possible to sustain communication, primarily due to “non-response” from most members for extended periods of time.
This primary paper summarizes the progress made on the recommendations of the task team as part of the inter-sessional work conducted in the aforementioned period. The progress updates have been compiled from inputs from some task team members to the convenors, and also includes information compiled by the convenors on publications relevant to the enlisted recommendations.
Lately, conservation initiatives focusing on Ganges and Indus dolphins, which include WWF-International’s Global River Dolphin Strategy, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)’s development of strategic proposals in 2020, the IUCN’s Integrated Conservation Planning for Cetaceans (ICPC), and national conservation action plans by the governments of range countries, have been going on in parallel from 2019-2020 onwards. With the emergence of these initiatives, and the observation of a very low level of participation on part of this task team’s members, we suggest that the task team consider concluding its current work. The IWC task team has completed work on many of its recommendations, and many of its members are actively engaged in the other initiatives as well. At the same time, the IWC will need to remain vigilant to gaps in the goals of the on-going work in case of future need. This could help to ensure that IWC remain aware of all efforts being undertaken to conserve these species.