Office for Environmental Programs - Theses

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    Assessment of threats to the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris)
    Ryan, Gerard Edward ( 2010)
    The Mekong dolphin is a highly threatened freshwater population of Irrawaddy dolphin, Orcaella brevirostris, inhabiting the Mekong River in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Cambodia. Despite the Mekong dolphin's low population size and rapid decline, there has thus far been no rigourous investigation of threats to the population, a gap this risk assessment aims to fill. A wide variety of threats are discussed including small population issues, boat traffic, fishing, tourism, environmental contamination, hydropower development and disease. Dolphin bycatch and disease are found to be the greatest threats, but competing mutually exclusive hypotheses prevent any definitive conclusions being drawn. It is imperative that this dichotomy be addressed as soon as possible and appropriate action taken to eliminate the threat. The development of hydropower dams, particularly on the mainstream of the Mekong River within dolphin habitat loom as the greatest future threat that may spell the end for this beleaguered dolphin population. Further indepth stochastic modelling is recommended to better understand the interactions and implications of some threats and guide conservation management of the population
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