GNF - Protection of the Irrawaddy Dolphin

Protection of Irrawaddy Dolphin, Indonesia



The Irrawaddy Dolphin, also so called as “Pesut Mahakam”, is one of the most threatened species world-wide. In the Indonesian province East Kalimantan, only between 70 and 90 animals live in an area of 4,500 sq. km. Through the co-operation of GNF with the local partner organisation YK-RASI, a protection area with a length of 115 km was already set up. In spite of this success, there are various risks for the rare fresh water dolphins. In addition, fishing with non sustainable fishing methods, like electric fishing, is one risk. The dangerous electrical circuits in the water were infrequently reported by the residents. Furthermore, dolphins are often caught in the fishing nets. A rapid rescue could keep them away from suffocation. The lakes and the swamps are important areas for reproduction for the dolphins. In temporary afloat swamp areas, dolphins and their procreation bind, as soon as the water abates. Risks must be betimes identified and a rapid action had to be permitted.


Project aims

  • Preservation and augmentation of the number of the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin
  • Protection of its natural habitats and food resources
  • Long-lasting decline of the non natural death rate
  • More intense involvement of the local people, in order of a higher awareness for the protection of the Irrawaddy Dolphins


Project measures

Activities are planned, which ensure the constant and intensive control of areas, in which the dolphins remain. The foundation of a dolphin patrol, forming by local people of the Mahakam Area, is the pre-condition. Its function are

  • Early alarm in case of unexpected risks for the dolphins
  • Permanent control of the natural fish reserves
  • Revelation of illegal fishing methods
  • Rescue of dolphins in fishing nets
  • Rescue of dolphins in shallow waters


The pilot project is implemented in the dolphin protection area of the Muara Pahu District. In this region, RASI has educated some volunteers for the protection of dolphins. For the protection patrol, volunteers are chosen, which observe the area and undertake also other functions, such as the record of  positions of dolphins. They report on the irregularities and announce them at the police. The volunteers will offer at the same time trips for pupils and tourists, in order to establish the patrol more intense in the administrations and the publicity. The excursions with the tourists offer the volunteers a small allowance for their engagement. RASI will invite police officers and employees of the environmental section of Muara Pahu, to conduct the volunteers at their control trips.


During rescue operations in the last years, numerous assistants had to sustain the dolphin, which has a weight up to 150 kg, with pure hands and with a sheet. These troubles retarded vastly the rescue actions. A robust stretcher will be acquired. This stretcher will be ready in the community of Pela, because the most dolphins bind in this region in shallow waters. The inhabitants of Pela have already experience with the handling with dolphins.


Further information about the Mahakam Wetlands are available on our webpage.

 Irrawaddy Dolphins
 Mahakam Wetlands
 River in the Mahakam Area
 Settlement in the Mahakam Area
 Successful rescue of a Irrawaddy Dolphin in 2009

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Protection of Irrawaddy Dolphin, Indonesia – Establishment of a Pesut Task Force


June 2010 – December 2010




Yayasan Konservasi RASI (Conservation Foundation for Rare Aquatic Species of Indonesia)


Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Rapunzel Naturkost with funds from the Hand in Hand-Fund