The Sundarbans, located in the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh is the world’s largest mangrove forest. The Sundarbans supports Asia’s last two remaining species of freshwater dolphins − the Endangered Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), and the Vulnerable Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris). While both species are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, they can be found in the Sundarbans in populations large enough for early conservation interventions to be effective in ensuring their long-term survival.
In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh declared three Dolphin protected areas comprising of six channels, each five kilometres in length, supporting a number of these two dolphin species. In spite of the efforts and the existing legal, policy, and institutional arrangements, the Sundarbans’ ecosystem is facing increasing threats mainly from over-exploitation and unsustainable methods of resource harvesting, poaching, unsustainable livelihoods, industrial development, maritime traffic, and unplanned tourism.
The project aims to increase awareness and build the capacity of the communities and other stakeholders to effectively manage the existing protected areas established for dolphin conservation in the Sundarbans region.
Through different events, campaigns, fairs, festivals and workshops, the project targets a diverse group of stakeholders to understand the biodiversity of this unique, fragile mangrove ecosystem. Also, awareness activities targeting specific groups of stakeholders i.e. students and Forest Department staffs will be arranged.
Furthermore, Bangladesh Forest Department staffs and related stakeholders will be trained on specialised modules and in organizing training workshops. The project will work with the Bangladesh Forest Department in dolphin conservation and sanctuary management by developing participatory monitoring system, buffer zone demarcation, and formation and training of dolphin teams in and around the protected areas. It will also engage national level stakeholders through national committee formation, and awareness raising and knowledge sharing events.
Through these efforts aiming to halt existing threats to dolphins in and around the expanded protected areas, the project looks to contribute in increasing dolphin population by decreasing mortality rates.
- To support the conduct of the Shushuk Mela and other similar outreach programmes;
- To support capacity building of relevant stakeholders; and,
- To support the implementation of selected activities from the management plan.
- Improve the communities’ levels of knowledge, attitude and practices on Sundarban biodiversity and dolphin conservation;
- Enhance capacity of the stakeholders through training and assist them to undertake SMART patrolling and other consumption-related interventions; and,
- Establish community and national levels conservation governance structure to move forward the dolphin and sanctuaries management plans.