Prof Ravindra Sinha has been responsible for creating awareness about conserving the endangered Gangetic dolphin. Recognising his efforts, the Central Government honoured him with the prestigious Padma Shri this year.
The Gangetic dolphin is a fresh water dolphin that is found in the Gangetic basin in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Essentially blind , these dolphins hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds that bounce off their prey.
On the brink of extinction, their current number stands at a mere 2,000.
Pic source: tourmet.com
For someone who grew up watching these dolphins from the river banks in Patna, it was but natural to be concerned about their survival. Meet Prof Ravindra Sinha from the Zoology Department at Patna University. Fondly known as the ‘Dolphin Man of India’, he has been waging a war to conserve the endangered dolphins in the Gangetic basin for the last two decades.
The Ganges river dolphins are subject to many threats. Many have died due to entanglement in fishing nets and other gear, pollution in the river from industrial wastes, pesticides, municipal sewage discharge, and noise from vessel traffic.
Pic source: env.go.jp
They are also hunted by fishermen for their meat and oil, which is considered to have medicinal properties. The oil is used by the fishermen to attract catfish too. Much of Prof. Sinha’s work is about tackling these threats.
Things weren’t all that easy when Prof. Sinha started out on his mission. The concern was less and awareness about the dolphins being on the verge of extinction was low. There was reluctance to grant funds to carry out research work on the conservation of dolphins. Taking the task all upon himself, with a small team of six members, Prof. Sinha set up the Dolphin Foundation. The foundation conducted extensive surveys, meeting fishermen on the banks of the Ganges, educating them and making them aware of the need for conservation.
He included the local people in the effort, calling them ‘dolphin mitra’ and also launched awareness campaigns among students of schools and colleges. Thanks to his persistence, in the year 2009, the Central Government declared the Ganges River Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal.
Recognizing his efforts and contribution towards conservation of the Gangetic dolphins, the Central Government this year honoured him with the prestigious Padma Shri award.
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Prof. Sinha is the first scientist from Bihar to be awarded the Padma Shri. He also claims to have come up with a substitute for dolphin oil for use by fishermen for catching cat fish.
“What I can do is educate and convince fishermen about the harmful fallout of killing these dolphins,” says Prof Sinha.
Image Source: www.hellobihar.blogspot.com
The conservation of Gangetic dolphins has become his life’s passion. He has helped establish the Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur, the country’s only such controlled ecosystem. Prof. Sinha has also written scores of research papers and books on dolphins. This exhaustive work by him has earned him the prestigious Order of the Golden Ark award of The Netherlands.
Today, Prof. Sinha is a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority of India. He aims to set up Asia’s first Dolphin Research Centre in Patna with funds sanctioned by the state government so that intensive research on this aquatic animal can be undertaken.