Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary
Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary is located in Bhagalpur District of Bihar, India. The sanctuary is a 50 km stretch of the Ganges River from Sultanganj to Kahalgaon. Designated in 1991, it is the only protected area for the endangered Gangetic dolphins in Asia. Once found in abundance, only a few hundred remain, of which half are found here.
The Gangetic dolphins have been declared as the National Aquatic Animal of India. This decision was taken in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Monday, 5 October 2009.
Major attractions are Gangetic Dolphins (known as Soons by Locals) which are classified as Endangered on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and included in Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Sanctuary also contains rich diversity of other threatened aquatic wildlife, including the Indian smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), a variety of freshwater turtles, and 135 species of waterfowl.
The best time to visit is October and June. Bhagalpur Junction Railway Station serves as the nearest railhead. Area between Sultanganj in West of Bhagalpur to Kahalgoan in East of Bhagalpur. Notably at Barari Ghat, where the Vikramshila Setu starts.
- Multiple dams and barriers disrupting free movement of the dolphins.
- Pollution by fertilisers, pesticides and industrial and domestic effluents, which are responsible for the death of many fish and are likely to have a negative effect on dolphin population.
- Killing of the animals for their meat or oil (used as catfish bait), and accidental entanglement in fishing nets.
There are various conservation works going on the Sanctuary Area. Noted works are:
- The Vikramshila Biodiversity Research and Education Centre (VBREC), led by Dr. Sunil Chaudhary, together with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), the Environmental Biology Laboratory of Patna University, and T.M. Bhagalpur University, has initiated a project to improve the conservation value of Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary.
- Aaranyak, a registered conservation NGO working in North East India since 1989, has initiated a project entitled "Conservation of Gangetic dolphin in Brahmaputra river system, India" in collaboration with Dibrugarh University (Assam). The project aims to evaluate the conservation status of the Ganges River dolphin throughout the entire Brahmaputra river system by carrying out research into the species' population status, distribution, habitat preferences and threats.
- WWF India also had started The Dolphin Conservation Programme to conserve the habitat of the Ganges River Dolphin and secure a future for the endangered species.
- NDTV Survey of 7 wonders of India
- David Attenborough Video on Gangetic Dolphins
- Goddess Ganga and the Gangetic Dolphin on Biodiversity of India