Indus river dolphins are one of only four river dolphin species and subspecies in the world that spend all of their lives in freshwater. They are believed to have originated in the ancient Tethys Sea. When the sea dried up approximately 50 million years ago, the dolphins were forced to adapt to its only remaining habitat—rivers. Only about 1,100 exist today in the lower parts of the Indus River in Pakistan. Numbers declined dramatically after the construction of an irrigation system. Most dolphins are confined to a 750 mile stretch of the river and divided into isolated populations by six barrages. They have adapted to life in the muddy river and are functionally blind. They rely on echolocation to navigate, communicate and hunt prey including prawns, catfish and carp.
The Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is a global priority species of freshwater cetaceans. It is an endangered species and is endemic to the Indus river system in Pakistan. The Indus River Dolphin is the second most endangered obligate freshwater dolphin species, falling only after the ‘functionally extinct' Yangtze river dolphin. The demise of the Yangtze river dolphin is a tragic reminder of the creatures' sensitivity to human activity around and its habitat, and the need for its formal protection and conservation on a national level.