The endangered Ganges River dolphin Platanista gangetica gangetica in Nepal: Abundance, habitat and conservation threats

Shambhu Paudel, Prabhat Pal, Michael V. Cove, Shant Raj Jnawali, Grant Abel, John L. Koprowski, Rishi Ranabhat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Conservation of the last remaining Ganges River dolphins Platanista gangetica gangetica in Nepal will require robust population estimates and better information on suitable habitat characteristics. To gain a better understanding of these parameters, we conducted boatbased surveys in the 3 major river systems (Karnali, Sapta Koshi, and Narayani) of Nepal. We recorded covariates at high spatial resolution and utilized these data to inform occurrence and abundance models. We allowed for detection bias by applying occupancy and N-mixture models that account for imperfect and heterogeneous detection. Occupancy results indicate that dolphin site use varies among the different river systems, across 2 seasons, and increases with river depth. River effects received nearly 100% of the model support and had the strongest influence on dolphin occurrence and abundance. The seasonal influence on dolphin occurrence in the systems (Σωi = 0.997) revealed that occupancy probabilities were heightened during the pre-monsoon season. Deep pool habitat was also identified as a predictor of dolphin habitat use, which accounted for 41.02% of all dolphin sightings occurring in this habitat. Although estimates vary depending on season, we estimate that there are between 37 and 42 (95% CI: 28 to 52) Ganges River dolphins distributed in the rivers of Nepal. Results suggest that seasonality and each specific river affect dolphins and their habitat in Nepal; we strongly recommend site and season-specific conservation actions. Further research on the integration of additional and alternative abundance techniques, behavioral studies, and pursuit of a conservation genetics approach are all important steps in the management of this endangered species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalEndangered Species Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Abundance
  • Distribution
  • Endangered species
  • Ganges River dolphin
  • Habitat
  • Nepal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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