The WWF has declared the Irrawaddy dolphin functionally extinct in Laos. Currently, there are just three of them left in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia, down from six individuals earlier this year.
With just three individuals, there are too few potential breeding pairs to ensure the survival of the species.
“The alarming decline of Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos that we have witnessed this year is tragic. [...] The loss of this iconic species for Laos is even more tragic given that it was entirely preventable through strict enforcement against gillnet fishing,” said Teak Seng, WWF Conservation Director for the Greater Mekong.
One of the main causes of the Irrawaddy dolphin's decline is fishing. However, the fishermen responsible are not specifically catching them, but it is the gillnets they cast into the rivers to catch fish that are the culprit. The Irrawaddy dolphins (and other marine animals) get caught in these nets and subsequently drown.
The WWF is calling for an immediate ban on gillnets within a two-kilometre radius around the Cheuteal Pool as well as increased enforcement against violators. Currently, gill nets are banned in Cambodia but not in Laos.