Where are the dolphins?

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readDec 27, 2019


Source : Google photo of the Yamuna river dolphin in India

Synopsis : Animal protection and their welfare does not rate very high in many countries where poachers and legal hunters are decimating their numbers. This blog looks at the river dolphins that have been poached to extinction but many other animals face the same tragedy everyday. We need to be aware that all animals have a right to live the way they have always lived in the wilderness so we should leave them alone.

During my childhood whenever I used to take a boat ride in the Yamuna river in my home town, I used to see many dolphins playing near the fort where the water was deep but they could be seen elsewhere in the river as well. When I asked what these animals were called, I was told that they were called Susuk ( in Bengali ) . I doubt if the Bengalis knew that they were called fresh water dolphins that were very rare.

They were grayish in color and came up for air but plunged back quickly showing only their back so we could never see the full shape of these animals. The illiterate boats men of the river killed these poor animals at will and decimated them until they all became extinct. There may have been laws to protect the dolphins but were never implemented so the slaughter continued until the last of the dolphins was killed.

The boats men killed them for the oil they extracted from them and sold it for profit. I do not know if anyone ate the meat or not. Years later one day while bathing in the ghats of Benares, I saw the dolphins again playing in the mid stream and not too far from the throngs of bathers nearby and totally oblivious of the crowd so I was mesmerized. I missed them in my home town so I was very happy to see them again downstream in Benares but they were only a few in numbers.

The locals called them derogatory names like dark as buffaloes because they showed no love or awareness of them as a rare animal that is found only in a very few places in Ganga but that is due to pure ignorance and apathy. At least they do not kill them in Benares so their numbers are not going down.

Now there is a far greater awareness among the people who have started to see them as very rare animals that need to be saved from extinction from poachers but the poachers are still around so there has to be the implementation of wild life protection law. Ordinary people may look at the dolphins but do nothing to protect them so these beautiful animals are extremely vulnerable to poaching and need round the clock watch and protection from the animal welfare activists and the government agents.

In Lucknow there is a crocodile breeding farm poorly run by the state where gharials are bred and the young ones are later released in some areas so it helps bring their numbers up slowly. But I have never seen a dolphin breeding program anywhere. I do not know if dolphins breed in captivity or how often so the only way to find out is to raise some of them in a breeding farm and see if they breed . The young ones can then be re introduced again in some areas of the river from where they have been hunted out.

In China one can see the dolphins in some rivers but they are of different species in shape and size .The Chinese are serious about protecting them and are doing something about it but sadly India is way behind.

They have started to breed the tigers in some zoos and release the cubs when they are ready so the tiger population is slowly rising. There is a stricter ban on hunting but the poachers are still active and kill some tigers and other big cats when they get a chance. India is blessed with a wide variety of flora and fauna but the animals and birds face constant danger from some people who have no love for them so it is a big challenge for the government to protect them all the time.

Source : Google photo of a Nil Gai in India ( it is a kind of large deer )

Where in the world can you see Nilgai and peacocks in the countryside from your train windows except in India? Nilgai is a big deer that roams freely in the Indian countryside and the peacock is the national bird that is protected by law in India but very recently the farmers in Rajasthan killed over 30 peacocks because they were damaging their crops. The punishment for killing peacocks in India is death penalty but how many people have been hanged so far? I do not know.

I have brought this issue to the attention of the hospital administrator in Lucknow when I told him that many peacocks are being killed by feral dogs and cats in the vicinity of the hospital so he should do something to protect them. He showed surprise and promised to do something but what is common knowledge does not reach him.

You will be surprised if I told you that hyenas and wolves were plentiful when I was young and we could hear their howls in the evenings meaning they were living in the outskirts of our town and often came into the town in the darkness of the night. But that was some 50 years ago. Now we do not hear them anymore because the population pressure has forced them to retreat to the diminishing wilderness areas.

As the population explodes everywhere, the wild animals are the first to suffer. We often see the videos of leopards or cheetahs come into the big city of Mumbai or other towns to scavenge for food in the garbage bins so the scared people call the police who then try to kill them. I do not know of any policeman who is trained to capture them and release them into the forested areas far from the city so for them it is easier just to shoot them.

There are cougars, panthers, leopards, cheetahs, wildcats, jaguars, red pandas, bears, tigers, lions, foxes, hyenas, wolves, rhinos, elephants , deers, antelopes , nilgais, crocodiles and gharials etc. just to name a few that are still found in India but most of them are in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and the Himalayan hills but the elephants often come out to ravage the crops of sugarcane and potatoes causing massive damage so the farmers are known to have poisoned some elephants. This conflict between the wild animals and the farmers is inevitable as the farm areas are being increased at the expense of wilderness so the animals feel hedged in and come out to look for food.

We saw wild elephants in South India when we were passing by a national park where they were just near the fence that was flimsy and could be knocked down by the elephants if they so desired but the tourists taking photographs frantically from this side of the fence were oblivious to this fact that the elephants were wild and dangerous.

Now a wild elephant looks just the same as a tamed domestic elephant so the stupid tourists could just take their photos but no. They have to photograph the wild ones.

Source : Google photo of dancing bears in India

Then there are people who catch bears and torture them to make them tame and make them dance for a few pennies. Once we saw at least 18 bears on the road to Jaipur from Agra whom the handlers pulled with ropes tied through the nose of the poor animals but one NGO has come to their rescue and has opened an animal shelter where the rescued bears are treated with veterinary care and given food and shelter.

The bear handlers are given some money and trained in some useful trade so they can earn a living . The women are taught how to make bamboo or rattan baskets or other such useful things so that they can sell them to earn a living. India is changing and the people are becoming more aware of the need to protect the wildlife but it has a long way to go before the poachers are stopped and wildlife trade is brought to an end.

In China the bears are kept in cages in cramped conditions to extract their bile which is a very very painful process for the bears. The sad part is that the bear bile is no longer needed as there are other alternatives that they can use as medicine but the Chinese tradition of using the bile continues and the bears suffer needlessly.

The rhino horn is falsely claimed to have aphrodisiac properties so the poor animals are killed and the horn is cut off to sell to some markets where they do not value rhinos. The elephants are killed for their ivory by the poachers who are decimating their numbers drastically in Africa and elsewhere.

Animals and birds do not belong in a zoo. They are protected there but have you seen how unhappy they are in a zoo? They are only happy when they are free. In fact the zoo bred animals cannot be released in the wilderness because the new born animals do not learn how to survive in the wilderness. They become totally dependent on the zoo keeper for their food and veterinary care.

So I was happy to see the dolphins in Benares river playing because they were free to go wherever they liked and were independent. No one had to feed them. They are very intelligent animals and they know how to take care of themselves when they are free. But I have seen big dolphins that jump through the loops in a water parks and do other tricks because they get food each time they jump although they too want to be free in the ocean. There was a story of a very frustrated orca who was kept captive in Florida for the tricks that it played to ticket paying audience everyday. It took its trainer and drowned her because of built up anger so the story went viral and the pressure mounted from the Netizens to release the orca in the ocean where it belonged. I still do not know if the orca was released or not.

Source : Google photo of the killer whale Orca drowning its trainer in Florida and people thought it was a part of the show.

I wish the dolphins could be reintroduced in the river in my home town and be given protection from poachers. Re educating the poachers to teach them the value of these beautiful animals takes time but can be done by the NGOs or the government. All school children must be taught the conservation of wildlife so that some day they will become protectors. More animal shelters are needed where rescued injured animals can be given proper care and food because such animals cannot be released in the forests so they have to be cared for. I have seen a wonderful animal shelter not too far from Phnom Penh where I saw a wild gaur for the first time.

Source : Google photo of a wild gaur in a sanctuary near Phnom Penh

Source : Google photo of alligator captured for the skin in the USA

There is a TV program here that shows people in the swamps in the United States slaughtering hundreds of alligators for their skins and constantly brag about how many they killed in one day. Their constant chatter about their greed for money and their need for more kills makes the TV program nauseating but the slaughter continues.

What we need to teach our children is that all animals and birds have a right to live the way they have always lived. We do not have any right to capture them or kill them for our pleasure or money so hunting them should be banned in all countries. If you are the type who brags about the fur coats, then know that many animals were killed to make just one fur coat for you so be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Source : Google photo of shameless women in fur coats.

When these beautiful animals are killed for commercial reasons, they become extinct. We owe it the next generation to protect them , care for them and be aware that the animals have rights too. It will be a pity if the kids of the future will only read about them in books.

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