An independent investigation, spanning over a year (2019), by city-based NGO Human and Environment Alliance League (HEAL) has unearthed large-scale killing of Ganges river dolphin — an endangered species and the national aquatic animal of India — along the banks of the Ganges in Murshidabad and Malda for oil trade and medicinal purposes.
The report has been submitted to the state’s chief wildlife warden. Field workers revealed that at least 50, including juvenile, Gangetic dolphins — protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act — are killed every year in the said stretch.
Meghna Banerjee of HEAL said their probe was primarily carried out in October-November 2019 in areas by the Ganges river bank in Malda and Murshidabad. “We conducted investigations here to understand the extent of dolphin trade in a stretch of about 150 kms. Dolphin oil is primarily used by fishermen as bait to catch freshwater catfish. It attracts larger number of fish, making the use of oil commercially lucrative,” Banerjee said, adding that the oil is also used for treating joint pain and healing wounds.
According to HEAL’s Suvrojyoti Chatterjee, after the dolphin is cut open, the blubber (fat) is stored in a drum. “According to the fishermen, it takes a few months for the oil to gain its properties. The older the oil, the better and costlier it is,” he added.