One of the main aims of the project is to help conserve the critically endangered Irrawaddy River Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris).
To do this, we are involving the fishermen/women as the 'eyes and ears' of the conservation community. The villagers are also learning that a healthy dolphin population, together with other beautiful wildlife, including a diverse birdlife, is a major attraction to tourists and provides significant economic benefits.
So please come to 'Destination Ayeyarwady', you may be lucky and see a pod of dolphins while you travel by boat (many visitors see this but it cannot be guaranteed!). In winter, you will see a rich variety of water birds. During you visit, you can borrow binoculars and there is a printed bird guide to help you identify the species.
Irrawaddy River Dolphin
Over the years, the wonderful but critically endangered river dolphins have become increasingly rare. At one time, there were thought to be as few as 50 individuals remaining between Mandalay and Bhamo. However, there is possibly some good news with recent reports suggesting that finally numbers may be increasing, if only slightly. The latest report states that there are some 76 individuals, although many threats remain.
Cooperative fishing with Irrawaddy River Dolphins
Despite being rare, Irrawaddy Dolphins are frequently seen at Hsithe and the fishermen/women still sometimes fish cooperatively with them. This is how it works:
1: The fishermen summon the dolphins by tapping a conical wooden pin on the side of the boat
2: If the dolphins agree to help the fishermen, one animal slaps the water surface with its tail flukes
3: One or two dolphins swim in smaller and smaller circles corralling the fish towards the shore
4: Finally with a wave of their half-submerged flukes, the dolphins then deliver a concentrated mass of fish to the fishermen and signal them to cast their net (based on Smith and Mya Than Tun, 2007).
As well as wildlife conservation, the fishermen/ women are also working to improve the environment of their communities. The Harrison Institute organised a series of workshops and training days, which focused on waste management and other issues. These were primarily aimed at the children and included talks, games, competitions and communal lunches.
In 2017, 'Destination Ayeyarwady' was awarded 'Best Community Involvement in Tourism' in Myanmar and was praised for "strong commitment to minimising environmental impacts".
Ma Hnin Witt Yee, Project Reservations Manager, Yangon on 09 250 640 728 or email
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