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First successful satellite tagging of a river dolphin in Asia: movements of Indus River dolphin Platanista minor in the Indus River, Sindh Province, Pakistan
Uzma Khan, Adnan Hamid Khan, Zia-ullah Moghal, Muhammad Imran Malik, Usman Akram
This study reports the preliminary findings of the first successful satellite telemetry of any freshwater cetacean in Asia. Three Indus River dolphins, Platanista minor were tagged with ARGOS satellite tags from Wildlife Computers in the Indus River, Sindh, Pakistan. These dolphins were rescued from an Dadu canal (1??) and a disconnected side channel (2??) on 11th and 15th January 2022, respectively and were released just above the Sukkur barrage in the Indus Dolphin Reserve, a 190 km protected area between Guddu (28o25?07.74?N, 69o42?46.95?E) and Sukkur barrages (27o40?45.68?N, 68o50?45.55?E ). The two adult females have been transmitting locations since 15th Jan 2022, 97 days so far, while after a few messages the tag on the young male did not transmit any data. The preliminary data from satellite tracking has helped in providing some insights into ranging patterns and spatial overlap. It also helped in determining different uses of the riverine features; confluence, side channels and main channel. Both dolphins spent equal percentage (42% recorded locations) in the main channel of the Indus River, 221535 had 41% and 17% and 221436 with 21% and 36% locations in confluences and side channels respectively. ?The longest distance a dolphin (221536) travelled from the release point was 44.8 km upstream Sukkur barrage, while the farthest the other female (221535) travelled from the release point was 11 km and this movement is regular over this study duration in the area. These initial results look promising for a large-scale telemetry study in Pakistan, prospecting for other dolphin species in the freshwater ecosystem in Asia and cross learning within region and with South America. ?This will be extremely useful in understanding the movement patterns in relation to water flow variations in this highly managed river system, while providing insights into habitat use and preferences. These will also help in monitoring post release survival of the rescued dolphins and associated conservation planning such as monitoring long distance translocations planned in future.