Dolphin survey boat named after Kahua- autumn grass in Assam
The snow-white kahua, a kind of blooming grass that that heralds the advent of autumn and Puja, now has a dolphin cruise to its name.
Aaranyak, an NGO that works on the wildlife welfare, has procured a survey boat for dolphin-sighting and conservation and calls it SB Kahua.
“Kahua is beautiful grass that grows on the islands and banks of the Brahmaputra in September and October. It is an integral part of the Brahmaputra riverine ecosystem. Therefore, I am naming the boat (white) Kahua with the hope that one day this boat will be a very important part of Brahmaputra ecosystem conservation and will be a flagship effort for dolphin and ecosystem conservation in the Brahmaputra,” said Abdul Wakid, head of Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Programme of Aaranyak.
For several years, Aaranyak has been using hired boats for its surveys.
Wakid said owning a boat was extremely important because understanding the dolphin population change and associated factors over time is very important for long-term conservation of endangered Gangetic dolphin. For this, a permanent survey boat with fixed observation platforms and other survey facilities are required.
The boat would also work as an “education boat”, Wakid said.
“We have been conducting research and conservation work on Brahmaputra dolphin by hiring boats from different agencies, which is expensive, time-consuming and conditional, as boats from Upper Assam do not want to come to lower Assam and vice-versa for security reasons and lack of proper experience,” Wakid said.
The new boat has already made one trip from Guwahati to Sadiya.
The Gangetic river dolphin is primarily an inhabitant of the Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems of India and Bangladesh, with a population of less than 2,000.
The Brahmaputra river system in Assam has been identified as one of the last habitats of the species by scientific communities.
The species, in fact, was declared a national aquatic animal by the Centre in 2009.
“After a couple of years of support-raising efforts and more than one year of hard work, we built Kahua with support from the Darwin Initiative through Zoological Society of London (UK), Rufford Small Grant Foundation (UK) and Mohammed Bin-Zayed Species Conservation Fund (UAE),” Wakid said.
The 75-foot boat is equipped with modern scientific equipment, safety and security arrangements, lodging facilities and experienced crew. It is registered with the inland water transport department.
“We are using Japanese underwater acoustic surveillance technology in the Brahmaputra-Kulsi-Subansiri survey, which will be end in March 12. This technology will confirm the visual sightings,” Wakid said.
“Direct sighting has been useful but we would like to increase the detection as all dolphins cannot be sighted visually. The underwater acoustic device or hydrophone, which measures the clicking sounds emitted by the dolphins, can help in detection,” Wakid said.
Nearly 300 dolphins have been recorded in the Brahmaputra mainstream so far.