Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Wildlife Sanctuary


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The Sanctuary is a 60 km stretch of the Ganga River, from Sultanganj to Kahalgaon (25°17’23” N, 86°55’48” E), in Bihar, notified in 1991 for conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphin. The area of Sanctuary is prone to changes due to inundation of the floodplains and the meandering channels of the Ganga during monsoon. The river stretch, particularly a 36 km stretch from Sultanpur to Bhagalpur, is a paradise for breeding birds because of the presence of a large numbers of sandbars.

Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) is the only dolphin sanctuary in India and crucial for the conservation of the Endangered Gangetic river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), the national aquatic animal. Other important aquatic mammalian fauna includes the Vulnerable Indian smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata). The Sanctuary is also identified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by BNHS for its rich avifauna. The Sanctuary is home to hundreds of Indian skimmers (Rynchops albicollis), Pallas’s fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), Greater spotted eagle (Clanga clanga) and Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni). Greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) and Lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) have also been reported from the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is also home to a sizable population of Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), a variety of freshwater turtles and numerous fish species.

Like the rest of the Ganga River flowing through the plains, VGDS also sees pollution from fertilisers and pesticides in surface runoff from agricultural fields and discharge of industrial and domestic effluents into the river. Unregulated and unsustainable development, such as construction of hydro-electrical dams, bridges and reservoirs for irrigation canals, also disrupts the movement of aquatic species. Accidental killing of wildlife in gill nets and poaching of aquatic species also threaten the wildlife populations.

 

 Sultanpur, the starting point of Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Wildlife Sanctuary  A dolphin calf in the Ganga  Fishing nets inside the Sanctuary

a) Sultanpur, the starting point of VGDS b) A dolphin calf in the Ganga c) Fishing nets inside the Sanctuary
©Rahul Kumar

References:

  • Islam, M.Z., and Rahmani, A.R. (2004). Important Bird Areas in India: Priority sites for conservation. Indian Bird conservation network: Bombay History Society and Birdlife International, UK. 1133 pp.