Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sometimes you just run out of luck? Hopefully not.

We are on the ground again in Asia, to complete the film we started last year. The film is about the
Map of Ganges river and countries it runs through
young conservation biologists who are fighting to save the remaining Ganges river dolphins. We have been following the lives and work of four characters; Gopal from Nepal, Subhasis from India, and Farhana and Manish from Bangladesh. These three countries span the range across which the Ganges river dolphin still can be found…today. I say this with hesitation because it faces an incredible uphill battle to continue on this Earth. But I would not be on the ground again, working on this project, if I didn’t think there was hope, and still a chance for its survival. I have this hope because of the courage, passion and dedication of these young conservationists.


So here we go! Leaving the UK this morning to start the second set of flights which will take me to the first location, Dhaka, Bangladesh, I check my phone at 6am to see an email from one of the heads of a research group that works to conserve the dolphin and whales species in Bangladesh waters. Because of the work of this group, a set of three sanctuaries were created for the Ganges river dolphin in the area of Bangladesh called the Sundarbans.
Map of Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest on the Earth. Map Credit: WWF

The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forest on the Earth, extending across southern Bangladesh into India. It is where the Ganges river finally meets the sea. This mangrove habitat is critical for the Ganges river dolphin. And it provides probably what may be considered the most pristine habitat available for this species across its range. That is….it did…until yesterday. And this is what the email was about. Yesterday, an oil tanker carrying oil upstream into a location in Bangladesh crashed into another boat and potentially all the oil contained was lost into this water. This water near the port of Mongla, which is right where the first of the three dolphin sanctuaries exists. For the Ganges river dolphin and also for the Irrawaddy (another species under threat).

Sunken boat in Sundarbans, Bangladesh near critical dolphin habitat (Photo Credit: bdnews24.com
What will be the result? I cannot tell you yet. I can however, share what I have considered. 1) Dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico are still affected (as are all marine life) from the Horizon oil spill and 2) The Ganges river dolphin is constrained to the river. No place else to go. These two facts combined seriously concern me.

While I absolutely hate to start this half of the story from such a dreary perspective, maybe it will
Oil from Sundarbans oil spill. 
bring home the fact to those that read it, the absolutely precarious nature that many of these species we are trying to protect are in now. And how easy it would be to tip the balance all the way to extinction….fast. And then how important it is that we focus our attention on these species and their habitat NOW.

This brings me then to consider the fact that after reading this, many of you may want to know what can you do NOW. I am glad you asked!

1. Immediately call your local and national news organizations and ask if they are covering this story? I actually have yet to look at US media to see if the story has  gone global yet? Or if it will. It WILL however, if you all help it to! Tell the news affiliates: Huge oil spill, largest mangrove forest on earth, over taking sanctuaries for endangered Ganges river dolphin. Try TV and internet based media. Here are links to email or forms to send the short sentence above: 
ASSOCIATED PRESS:

CNN:

FOX


NBC:




      2.   Spread the word via social media. We have posted this story on our facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/TropicalDolphinResearchFoundation) and twitter feeds (https://twitter.com/TropicalDolph). Please go to these and hit SHARE (not like). This tool can be extremely powerful to get the word out fast.

      3. Follow up the above two tasks by calling your congress people IMMEDIATELY (or similar types of government officials in other countries) to ask the US (or your country) to get involved IMMEDIATELY and provide aid to Bangladesh. In US here is how to find your congressperson (http://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup). Here is what you can say or write:

Prior to 2005 there were four river dolphin species on the Earth. Now there are only three. Soon there may be only two.

The Ganges river dolphin is endangered (IUCN) and had a major blow this week with an oil spill occurring over the most pristine part of its range, the Sundarbans in southern Bangladesh, (the Sundarbans are also the largest mangrove forest on Earth).

This spill occurred very close (less than a km) to one of the recently established sanctuaries for this river dolphin in Bangladesh.

At this time there are may be 1000 of this species left across its range (ranges from Nepal, across India and then into Bangladesh).

Bangladesh DOES NOT have the resources to clean up the spill. They MUST have outside aid.

Bangladesh MUST get help with a cleanup NOW. Or many species (from fish, to dolphins to tigers to humans) could be harmed to the point of extinction.

This is a chance to save these species (including the river dolphin).


We therefore request that the United States do everything in its power to immediately aid Bangladesh to help clean the oil spill.

I can tell you from first hand experience, this country is an AMAZING country, but it is a new country and struggles significantly just to feed its people. It simply is not equipped to deal with this. And MUST HAVE HELP FROM OTHER COUNTRIES. We all are from Earth. And we should all then take responsibility to help protect it, no matter where the man made border boundaries are where the problems exist. If we can all work together to get this story heavy coverage in the media and follow with huge influx of calls to our leaders, you would be surprised how effective we can be at getting aid to Bangladesh. I cannot emphasize, how critical time is in this effort. With only maybe 1000 Ganges river dolphins left, every animal saved by your actions will be critical for its continued existence.

      4.  Help us to tell this story. We are setting up a crowd funding site to raise money for the film. We have a limited budget (out of our own pockets…because we felt it was THAT important). By donating, either because you believe in the reason for the film, or because you want to help us to cover the spill event (which we will be doing now to include in the film), you can help us to increase the amount of time we can spend on the ground in Asia. And help us to promote the conservation of this species. One of the three remaining river dolphin species on the planet (the Yangtze river dolphin was declared extinct in 2005).

       We will post links to this as soon as live. Maybe later today. In the meantime, you can donate on our website (www.tropicaldolphin.org). We have a safe paypal link there.