Kavita Saharia, a passionate blogger who writes about North Eastern India, shared this beautiful article on river dolphins from her personal blog.
Happy World Environment Day
This year we planned to celebrate the Environment Day by visiting Kukurmara a very small township at 40 kms west of Guwahati. This place attracts a lot of visitors because the river Kulsi here(one of the tributaries of river Bhramaputra) has the presence of approx 30 odd fresh river Dolphins. Around the world only four species of fresh water Dolphins are found, one of them being in India River Dolphin – Platanista Gagentica Gagenticahave the status of National as well as state aquatic animal of Assam. It is called Xihu (pronounced Khi-hu) in local language. In the year 1996 the IUCN(International Union For Conservation Of Nature) gave them the status of ‘Endangered Species’.
We reached Kukurmara town in about 90 minutes. The picture above shows the way which deviates from the highway and leads toward the peaceful and an isolated spot where the Dolphins are mostly seen. Sand mining, poaching, fishing and the scarcity of food are the constant threat to their numbers. The oil extracted from Xihu is believed to cure Rheumatism.
The road ahead was very narrow. Most of the people living in this area are very poor. As we parked our car in an open field we saw two men standing there. We asked them about the spot, without any question this man (the picture below) named Moni Kalita became our voluntary guide.
and walked some more as the site was nearly half kilometers away. On way i asked him if they killed Xihu for eating, he replied that it is considered bad luck if someone kills this creature. ‘Xihus and we live like good neighbors’, he said.
He took us to the best spot and within few seconds after we reached we saw our first River Dolphin. After that there was no stopping, it was amazing. The hardest part was to capture them in camera as they are pretty fast, they just disappear in seconds. Moni told us that visitors from around the world come here carrying huge cameras and choose this very spot.
Me and my poor tiny camera. I managed to click pictures like this. It is not full and clear but I am sharing it anyway.
There were some very curious and interested audience – Gauri (daughter), Kaustubh (son) and this girl named Geeta. I could tell that they were having a great time. They asked many questions like what these fish eat and why they jump over the water. Moni explained that these Dolphins jump up to get some air and they eat small fish.
We saw them in couples – these two Dolphins were very big in size.
I managed just one shot where the mouth of the fish is visible. I have zoomed it, look at the picture below.
Unlike us most of the visitors coming here hire a boat to see the Dolphins. We saw one such boat coming towards the spot.
The boat stopped nearby. The group tried to take the pictures but gave up later realizing that it was almost impossible to do so.
This boat man shouted when he saw the camera in my hands “Baido, mur chobi lobi, magazineot dibi de, mur bor mon zaye” (meaning – Hey Sister, click my picture and give it to some magazine ). I promised that I will try my best.
We sat there for almost two and half hours. We sure felt that we saw more than 30 Xihus(may be there number increased). By that time the group got very friendly with each other. I am glad that we met them as they were so helpful and friendly. Later they refused any tips too. After shaking hands, few hugs and saying thanks to them we moved back to our car.
On our way back we saw these cows. One of the boatman left his boat unattended so these cows took the chance until
the man returned and chased them.
We walked back to our car. Had some light refreshment we had brought along.
On our way back we saw this very disturbing sight of ‘Sand Mining’ – one of the main reason threatening these beautiful creatures. To ensure their survival there is a need to take strong protective measures.
Author: Kavita Saharia
Kavita Saharia is a dental surgeon in Guwahati, Assam. She blogs at kavitasaharia-myroom.com/. This article is from her blog.
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