For decades, Cambodia’s Mekong River population of Irrawaddy dolphins has verged on extinction. Once believed to have numbered in the thousands, the population began to plummet in the 1970s. Some conservation measures were finally implemented in the mid-2000s when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnered with the Cambodian government to support law enforcement efforts combating unsustainable fishing practices, which include using poisons and dynamite. Around this time, the Cambodian government also began promoting the dolphins as a flagship species and tourist attraction.
Then, last year, came some good news. A new survey found 92 dolphins in the Mekong River, the highest number in more than 20 years. Researchers identified nine newborn calves. This year, three more have already been found.