KENDRAPARA: The population of dolphins in Odisha has increased from 544 in 2021 to 726 this year, revealed the annual dolphin census carried out recently. The report, released on March 30, stated that Gahirmatha is home to the State’s largest population of dolphins, even more than Chilika.
As per the 2022 dolphin census, Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and nearby areas in Bhitarkanika saw dolphin count skyrocket to 540 from 342 last year. These included 45 Irrawaddy , 135 bottlenose, 332 humpback, 13 striped and 15 spinner dolphins.
Attributing the rise in population to the seven-month-long fishing ban (November-May) in the marine sanctuary every year, DFO Bhitarkanika National Park JD Pati said dolphin population was more in Gahirmatha as Irrawaddy dolphins reside in estuarine areas of Chilika Lake and salty seawater near the coast is the abode of humpback dolphins.
In the 2021 census, forest officials sighted only 342 dolphins including 39 Irrawaddy, 22 bottlenose and 281 humpback dolphins. Dolphins are commonly sighted in water bodies in Khola, Nalitapata, Dhamara and in the sea near Satabhaya, Pentha, Agaranashi, Eakakula, Hukitola and other areas within the sanctuary, the forest officer added.
However, the count of dolphins in Chilika Wildlife Division saw a dip from 188 in 2021 to 167 in 2022.
Official sources said 48 teams carried out the enumeration exercise for dolphins within a width of one km of the Odisha coast apart from Chilika Lake.