Researchers from the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia have reported the discovery of a 2-day-old Irrawaddy dolphin calf swimming in the Kampi deep pool in Kratie province.

This was first the first dolphin calf to be recorded this year.

The new calf was spotted by river guards during a patrol and immediately reported to researchers from the FiA – which operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – as well as WWF team members.

The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) calf was photographed in the deep pool, near Chitr Borei’s Sambok village and commune. It was swimming in the company of six adults, according to a social media post by the ministry.

Ouk Vibol, director of the FiA’s Fisheries Conservation Department, said on February 12 that last year, eight calves were born in the Kingdom, although two passed away before the end of the year.

He explained that this was still a net gain over 2022, and expressed optimism that 2024 would see another increase in the Kingdom’s dolphin population.

“This year, we hope to ensure that all of the calves which are born survive. We hope to see at least eight, although we can never be certain about that. We will put strict measures and regulations in place to protect them, and will conduct 24-hour patrols,” he said.

Vibol explained that the birth should be a source of pride for Cambodian conservationists and their partners, and a tribute to the work they have done to prevent fisheries crimes, protect the sanctuary and educate the public about the importance of saving these precious creatures.

“Every new calf is a sign of hope, and should make everyone happy, from the public to the government,” he said.

According to Vibol, a dolphin census takes place every three years, as it is necessary to wait until each of the mammals are at least 3 years old. To date, it is estimated that the Kingdom’s river dolphin population is around 90, including animals of reproductive age.

WWF country director Seng Teak said the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins are considered a living national treasure of Cambodia and are one of the six rarest species of freshwater dolphins remaining in the world.

“As a conservationist and a strategic partner of the government, the recording of the newborn calf is great news. It encourages us and gives us hope. We are constantly engaging in protecting the dolphins and maintaining the free flow of the Mekong River, which is an important source of life for both animals and humans,” he said.

He believes that the presence of the newborn dolphin is testament to the joint efforts of all stakeholders, under the guidance of the government.

He noted the effectiveness of many of the government’s campaigns, especially the crackdown on the use of electrical fishing nets.