Dolphin painting © Conservation Department / WWF-Pakistan

Indus River Dolphin

The Indus River dolphin, locally known as bhulan is a freshwater dwelling cetacean species found in the Indus River, Pakistan. It is a flagship species and is an indicator of the biological health of aquatic and terrestrial environment adjoining the Indus River. The current distribution range of the Indus River dolphin is about 1000 km stretch of the Indus River which includes main Indus channel and active channels connected to it between Jinnah and Kotri barrages.

The existing population of Indus River dolphin is about 1300 dolphins found between Chashma and Kotri barrages in the Indus River.

Key Facts

  • Common Name

    Indus River Dolphin / Indus Blind Dolphin

  • Scientific Name

    Platanista gangetica minor

  • Length

    Maximum 2.5 m (males are smaller than females)

  • Weight

    70 – 110 kg

  • Status

    Endangered (EN)-IUCN Red List Status

  • Habitat

    Indus River System in Pakistan

The government of Sindh designated a 200 km stretch of the Indus River between Guddu and Sukkur barrages as the ‘Indus Dolphin Reserve’ in 1974. It is a legally Protected Area holding the largest population of Indus River dolphin. It is also an important bird area and an internationally recognised Ramsar site.

The Indus River dolphin is characterized by a long beak, rounded belly, stocky body, very small dorsal fin and large flippers. This species is also referred to as the ‘blind dolphin’ as its eye hasn't developed a lens. It relies on echolocation (sound sensors) to find fish, shrimp, and other prey in the bottom mud.

The Indus River dolphin swims on its side, at times enabling it to move in water as shallow as 30 cm. As it swims on its side, it trails a flipper along the bottom of the river. After 30 to 60 seconds, when it needs to breathe, it swims to the surface, rotates upright to take in the air, and then rotates 90 degrees again as it swims back to the bottom. It migrates upstream into the smaller tributaries during the monsoon rains and migrates downstream to the main channels in the dry season.

 / © Indus River Dolphin Distribution Range in Pakistan
Indus River Dolphin Distribution Range in Pakistan
Indus River Dolphin Distribution Range in Pakistan

Did you know?

The Indus River Dolphin is blind but it can still differentiate between light and dark!

The side swimming behaviour of Indus River Dolphin is not consistently seen in any other dolphin, except the Ganges River Dolphin.