A rare Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin was killed by an explosive device thrown by fishermen in the Srepok River, which divides Mondolkiri from Ratanakkiri province, officials said Wednesday.
On Jan 22, forest rangers heard an explosion near the Srepok River in the protected Srepok
Wilderness Area at roughly 5 am, said Seng Teak, country director for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.
The rangers ran to the site but did not see anything. Several hours later, the rangers and provincial police officers heard a second explosion.
“After the explosion, our police officers heard the sound so we wanted to take a look,” said Mondolkiri provincial police Chief Chin Sarun. When police arrived, they arrested a man taking the dead dolphin out of the water.
Chin Sarun said the man had used explosive powder from an anti-tank mine to make a bomb for blast fishing in the Srepok River.
So Saren, 48, his wife Eng Sitha, 40, and two other people were arrested and are being detained in provincial prison, Chin Sarun said.
Seng Teak said he did not believe the fishermen intended to target the dolphins, several of which may have been injured, but hit them with the bomb while trying to catch other fish.
Seng Teak said the Srepok River, which flows south from Ratanakkiri, used to contain Irrawaddy dolphins but they disappeared 10 to 15 years ago. In December, word spread that the dolphins had returned to the river. The rumors were confirmed earlier this month and Seng Teak said rangers had started taking active steps to protect the endangered mammals.
WWF and others are trying to determine why the dolphins returned and how many there are.
In a separate incident, forest rangers arrested four people leading two oxcarts stuffed with dried banteng buffalo meat, Seng Teak said. The animals’ heads, a dead cobra and an AK-47 assault rifle were also in the carts.