A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Cambodia threatens to suspend WWF after dolphin report

The Mekong River dolphin.

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian official Wednesday threatened to suspend the operations of an international wildlife group after it released a report claiming an endangered dolphin species was at risk of extinction due to pollution in the Mekong River.

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia's Commission for Conversation and Development of the Mekong River Dolphins Eco-Tourism Zone, said World Wildlife Foundation (WFF) investigators faced suspension unless they met with him to discuss their report.

The WFF report released last week said 88 dolphins had died since 2003 and researchers had found toxic levels of pesticides and environmental contaminants in their analysis of Irrawaddy dolphin calves.

'This report simply is not true,' Touch Seang Tana told a press conference. 'These findings were reported without consultation with me, so I sent a letter to the WFF to come and meet with me to clarify these points.'

He denied that dolphin deaths were caused by pollution and said the report put Cambodia's burgeoning eco-tourism sector at risk.

'A few deaths have been caused by dolphins becoming trapped in fishing nets in the Mekong River, but it was not due to pollution,' he said. 'I wrote to the WFF to clarify this and if they do not wish to meet with me to discuss this, then their operations in the area could be suspended.'

The report estimated that between 64 and 76 dolphins remained in the 160-kilometre stretch of the Mekong that runs through Laos and Cambodia.

It said 60 per cent of the 88 deaths had occurred in dolphin calves less than two weeks old.

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