Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hihu or Suhu - Ganges River Dolphin in the Brahmaputra River

Once in a while when I happen to go across the river Bramhaputra in a boat, my eyes scan the surface of the river for a sight of the playful Hihu/Susu, the Ganges River Dolphins jumping about. I always proved to be lucky as they timed to jump then in almost all my trips but they were just brief encounters. Recently on the day of Chhat Puja, where I sunk my feet in the muddy river bank and lost my slippers while trying to click pictures of the devotees and their prayer ceremonies in the wee hours of the morning that day, I was walking barefoot on a little higher ground and looked a little further on the surface of the river beyond the lines of the crowded bank. The sun had risen then and I saw the first dolphin jumping and coming. In the next few moments other dolphins too kept jumping and came closer towards the crowd. It was sheer delight to see all those dolphins playing about. According to the local people, they come specially because of the crowd as they love to be close to people. I was stupidly trying to click still pictures and missed out all those beautiful jumps and lateron recorded on video. That too, I deleted by mistake. Next day, I went again and chanced to record a few clips. All are fraction of a second jumps and in one, can be seen a bit clearly. I am sharing it here today. Hope you all like this video clip of the adorable Ganges River Dolphin.

Common Name: Ganges river dolphin, blind dolphin, Ganges dolphin, Ganges susu, Gangetic dolphin, hihu, side-swimming dolphin; Plataniste du Gange(Fr); DelfĂ­n del Ganges(Sp)
Scientific Name: Platanista gangetica

Habitat: Ganga and Brahmaputra river system

Location: South Asia

This Dolphin has a long thin snout, rounded belly, stocky body and large flippers are characteristics of the Ganges River dolphin. Although its eye lacks a lens (this species is also referred to as the "blind dolphin"), the dolphin still uses its eye to locate itself. The species has a slit similar to a blowhole on the top of the head, which acts as a nostril. The dolphin has the peculiarity of swimming on one side so that its flipper trails the muddy bottom. This behavior is understood to help it to find food. Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the 'Susu' or the 'Hihu'.
The movements of the Ganges River dolphin follow seasonal patterns, although the details are not well known. However, it seems that animals travel upstream when water level rises, and from there enter smaller streams.

The color of the dolphin is grayish brown. The calves and young ones are dark in color but as the animal grows in size, the color lightens. 
Females are larger than males and attain a maximum size of almost 9 feet. Males are about 7 feet.
The Ganges River dolphin, or susu, inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
 A recent survey conducted by WWF-India and its partners in the entire distribution range in the Ganga and Brahamaputra river system - around 3,700 miles - identified fewer than 2,000 individuals in India.

The presence of dolphin in a river system signals a healthy ecosystem. Since the river dolphin is at the apex of the aquatic food chain, its presence in adequate numbers symbolizes greater biodiversity in the river system and helps keep the ecosystem in balance.


 *** Diana Raj Kumari ***

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