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New research to save Irrawaddy dolphins from extinction in Mekong

(Xinhua)

13:57, May 02, 2012

PHNOM PENH, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia is conducting a new research with foreign experts on conservation of the Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River, both in Cambodia and the trans- boundary dolphin population shared with Laos, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement released Monday.

The research, scheduled for late April until the end of May, is conducted by the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of Mekong River Dolphin Ecotourism Zone, the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and WWF.

Carried out in collaboration with experts from US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the researchers will remotely collect tissue samples from three free- swimming dolphins in the Mekong.

When conducted carefully by experienced researchers, biopsy sampling can be done safely and effectively, and is considered a standard dolphin research technique worldwide.

"We will dart the dolphins at about 15 meters distance using specially prepared biopsy darts. The darts are designed to protect the animals and cannot pierce beyond their thick blubber layer. Only a tiny amount of tissue is collected, but it is enough to provide a wealth of important information," said Dr. Robert Pitman, research team leader with NOAA.

The collection of biopsy samples from the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin sub-population is very important to address questions regarding sex and reproductive state, population and social structure, and contaminant levels.

"The information we obtain from this research is very valuable and will provide us with a better understanding about this iconic animal in order to determine proper conservation measures to conserve the remaining population from going extinct, and increase its number," said Touch Seang Tana, chairman of the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of Mekong River Dolphin Ecotourism Zone.

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