A review of the status, threats and management priorities of a remnant population of Indus River dolphins in the Beas River, India

Gill Braulik, Gitanjali Kanwar*, Asghar Nawab, Mohammad Shahnawaz Kahn, Sandeep Behera, Basanta Rajkumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


1. The Indus River dolphin (Platanista minor) is a severely threatened species of
freshwater dolphin that occurs only in the lower Indus River system of Pakistan
and India. The dolphin's range has declined by 80% since the 1870s, and total
species abundance is estimated as approximately 2000 individuals.
2. In 2007, a remnant population of Indus dolphins was discovered above Harike
Barrage, in the Beas River in India, 600 km away from all other individuals of its
species. This paper provides an overview of the conservation status of Indus
dolphins in the Beas River, details the threats they face, and suggests priorities for their conservation and management.
3. Between 2011 and 2022, 40 dolphin direct count surveys were conducted. Indus dolphins occur only in the lower third of the Beas River and reported counts have been from one to eight individuals. The data do not indicate an increase in abundance, and instead suggest a potential decrease; however, sightings of calves continue to be reported annually indicating reproduction is still taking place.
4. Threats to the Beas River dolphin population include accidental entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, escapement downstream of Harike barrage, altered and depleted river flow regimes' and the effects of a very small population size.
Urgent conservation measures are essential if this small, but important satellite
population is to persist.
5. Recommended management actions include the complete removal of fishing nets from dolphin habitat, reducing pollution, ensuring adequate river discharge to sustain aquatic ecology including dolphins, evaluating and monitoring dolphin
movement through Harike barrage and into canals, and engaging riverside
communities to protect dolphins. In addition, the possibility of conservation
translocations to supplement this population with individuals from larger healthy
populations elsewhere in the range of the species should be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4087
Number of pages14
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number2
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Aquatic mammals
  • Dams
  • Endangered species
  • Environmental flow
  • Extinction risk
  • Fragmented habitat
  • Freshwater ecosystems
  • Regulated rivers
  • River dolphins
  • Small populations


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