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13. Ganges River Dolphin

Platanista gangetica


The Ganges river dolphin is not only the only member of its genus, but of its family, Plantanistidae, representing an ancient lineage in the order Cetartiodactyla.

The Ganges river dolphin lives in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. It is threatened primarily by the damming of rivers for irrigation and electricity generation, which degrades the habitat, and isolates the populations; preventing seasonal migration.

Like other river dolphins, who have evolved these traits convergently, they rely very little on eyesight because of the muddy waters it inhabits, and as a result has tiny, non-functional eyes that lack lenses. Instead they use echolocation to detect food and navigate, and, to a very small extent, communication.

The Ganges river dolphin is not only the only member of its genus, but of its family, Plantanistidae  They are thought to represent one of the earliest divergences within the odontocete (toothed whale) clade, and are some of the first river dolphins. There are two sub species of Ganges river dolphin, with each population only reaching ~1000 individuals.

  • Order: Cetartiodactyla
  • Family: Platanistidae
  • Population: 965-1800
  • Trend: unknown
  • Size: 1.5-2.5m
  • Weight: 150kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 6.01 (?)
ED Score: 50.03 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The Ganges river dolphin is found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Bangladesh and India. A few individuals survive in Nepal in the Karnali River and possibly the Sapta Kosi River.

Habitat and Ecology

The Ganges river dolphin inhabit freshwater river systems, mostly in plains with slow-flowing rivers. They have a preference for deep waters, where prey availability is high. They mainly feed on fish and invertebrates, using echolocation to detect their prey.

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Loading species distribution map...

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Fishing Dams Native species Wastewater Industry Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Conserving the Ganges River Dolphin on the Brahmaputra

  • Locations: Brahmaputra River, India
  • Active dates: 2011 - 2015
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Manish Datta

  • Project name: Quantifying and reducing by-catch and consumption of South Asian River Dolphins
  • Project site: Passur River, Bangladesh
  • Active: 2012 - 2015
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