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Nepal’s river dolphins

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Nepal’s susu, or gangetic dolphins, belong to one of only three species of freshwater dolphins in the world and, like their cousins in the Amazon and Indus, are highly endangered. A small, isolated population survives in the far west of Nepal, downstream of the Chisapani gorge in the Karnali River. Before the 2008 flood, dolphins used to cavort openly in the outflow of the Koshi Barrage, less than a dozen kilometres from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve; since then spottings have been less frequent, though three stranded dolphins were rescued by the army and released back into the Koshi in early 2009. However, whether these practically blind animals (they use echo-location), revered in myth as “messenger kings”, return in numbers, or go the way of the now-extinct Yangtze Dolphin, remains to be seen.

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