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Irrawaddy dolphin - shutterstock

Irrawaddy dolphins in crisis

Please donate

Irrawaddy dolphins are in crisis

Please give whatever you can

A single donation of

Please donate now to help put protection on the river.

Irrawaddy dolphins urgently need your help. Their population has plummeted 50% in just 20 years. Now, fewer than 72 individuals remain in the Irrawaddy River.

Their watery home is under siege – dolphins are becoming tangled in deadly gillnets; their food source is being wiped out by illegal electrofishing; and the once-lush river is being polluted by toxic chemicals from agricultural run-off.

Unless we protect them fast, the dolphins could soon vanish from these waters forever, along with many other species that share their home, like the critically endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtle.

But Fauna & Flora has a plan to help them.

We need your help to raise funds – a total of £95,271 – to support species guardians – local people helping to protect the dolphins.

This dedicated group is committed to implementing a crucial community-managed no-take zone – protecting dolphins and fish.

We also want to supply them with boats to help them deter illegal fishers, and motorbikes to help monitor endangered turtle egg sites along the river.

The faster we raise vital funds, the faster we can act to protect these extraordinary creatures. Whatever you can give could make a massive difference.

The situation with Irrawaddy dolphins and why they need your help - narrated by Stephen Fry.

What your gift will do

Hem Manita / Fauna & Flora


Could help buy field supplies for volunteers, allowing them to safely get onto the river to protect dolphins.


could help buy replacement motorbike parts, enabling local volunteers to easily reach sites of potential riverside threats.

Adobe / blackboxguild


could help buy a boat for river patrols, putting a team of volunteers on the water and making an enormous difference in the struggle to save these creatures.


could help pay for a survey on the river, enabling teams to identify the areas that are most vulnerable to damage.

Teeming with wildlife: The Irrawaddy River

As one of the last major remaining rivers in Asia not affected by dams or any other impediments, the Irrawaddy river creates wild places and habitat for hundreds of species to thrive.

From the critically endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtle, which nests along the river’s banks, to over 400 fish species that dwell in the river’s depths – at least half of which are thought to be found nowhere else on the planet, to the fascinating water birds – the white-bellied heron, black-bellied tern, Pallas fish eagle, and much more – this dynamic river is home to a whole host of threatened wildlife.

And, of course, there’s the spectacular dolphins, of which just 72 are now thought to remain in the Irrawaddy river.

A Pallas fish eagle – one of the many bird species that relies on the Irrawaddy river. © YK – Adobe

A Pallas fish eagle – one of the many bird species that relies on the Irrawaddy river.

Trapped & tangled in deadly gill nets

Sadly, human impact on the river is visible and increasing. The Irrawaddy dolphin feeds on fish and crustaceans, and its food supply is highly threatened due to overfishing and illegal electrofishing.

The dolphins have also found themselves becoming the unwitting victims of overfishing, getting tangled all too easily in the large gillnets thrown out by fishers.

These gillnets can be deadly, trapping the dolphins under their heavy weight and giving them next to no chance of escape. They are simply left to suffer and die.

Irrawaddy dolphins are under serious threat from over fishing. Credit: Shutterstock

Irrawaddy dolphins are under serious threat from illegal fishing methods. Just 72 are left alive in the Irrawaddy river.

Living in harmony with locals

It wasn’t always this way – for generations, local fishers have experienced a close relationship with the dolphins.

Over time, they have developed an extraordinary fishing technique that relies on the co-operation of the dolphins.

When the fishers make a splash on the surface with their oars, this sends a signal to the dolphins, who start to herd the fish into the net – it’s an incredible demonstration of the partnership we can have with wildlife, and it is quite a sight to behold!

Sadly, only a handful of fishermen still practice this cooperative fishing with the dolphins today.

This kind of communication needs a huge amount of trust from the dolphins, and this trust has plummeted in recent years as illegal electrofishing has surged.

The volunteers stepping in to help

Luckily, the local fishers aren’t the only ones who care deeply for the dolphins.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is regarded as a sacred animal by much of the local community and is an important source of income and jobs thanks to dolphin-watching ecotourism.

This means that there are many local people who understand how important it is to save the dolphins.

And that’s where you come in.

In collaboration with Fauna & Flora, these extraordinary local species guardians have developed an action plan to protect the Irrawaddy river and the key species that rely on it.

But they need more than just enthusiasm – they desperately need funds to purchase the resources needed to make this plan a reality.

© Bjorn Olesen

Fishers have worked with dolphins in harmony for decades. Now illegal fishing methods are putting their livelihoods at risk.

What do the species guardians need?

If we can raise £95,271, then we could get these local species guardians everything they need to safeguard this vital habitat.

We want to support them in creating a designated community-managed no-take zone, helping to prevent illegal and destructive fishing methods.

We also want to provide them with boats to monitor the river and deter illegal fishers, as well as motorbikes to monitor nesting sites for the endangered Burmese peacock softshell turtle.

  • £22 could help buy field supplies for volunteers
  • £46 could help buy replacement motorbike parts
  • £88 could help buy a boat for river patrols

Protecting the Irrawaddy dolphin is about much more than just saving a species. Their protection is crucial for the overall health of the Irrawaddy river and the many species that live within it.

So please, donate today and you could help support these local volunteers – without help, there is a real danger that we could lose many of these species forever.

Please note: If we raise more than £95,271 from this appeal, then additional funds will be used to support our other work in Myanmar and around the world. If we’re unsuccessful in raising the full £95,271 then any funds we do receive will still be restricted to this project.