Indonesia: Finless porpoise habitat found

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 8 Nov 16;

The finless porpoise has been confirmed to inhabit Kubu Raya regency waters in West Kalimantan, according to DNA tests published on Monday in Pontianak.

The tests were jointly conducted by the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA), the West Kalimantan chapter of Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, and the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) of Bali-based Udayana University.

It was not previously known that finless porpoises existed in the area.

The mammal was initially trapped in a fisherman’s trawl in Padang Tikar district in April. The WWF only had samples from the head, fin and tail of the animal because it had been cut into pieces.

The samples were sent to Udayana University to identify the species.

WWF Indonesia’s West Kalimantan program manager Albertus Tjiu said the finding was important given minimum data about this particular animal in the world.

In addition, the existence of finless porpoises is considered important for the ecosystem because its presence serves as an indicator of the health of the water, the mangrove condition and the abundance of fish in the area, he added.

There are 88 types of sea mammals or cetaceans recorded, 34 of which exist in Indonesia. Three of them can be found in West Kalimantan waters in Kubu Raya regency. Finless porpoises, according to Albertus, are categorized as the smallest cetacean, measuring fewer than two meters in length.

Finless porpoises, he said, are different from other cetaceans. They are shy and not acrobatic, so they can only be seen on the surface of the water when breathing.

“Other porpoises are interactive and like to jump high, so they are often seen,” said Albertus, adding that no natural documentation on finless porpoises was yet available.

Last month, a whale was found stranded in Padang Tikar district waters, proof that the area was an important habitat for sea mammals. This was supported by the survey conducted by the WWF in 2011.

“The finding of a finless porpoise in Kubu Raya gives additional information about the presence and spread of the species in Indonesia,” Albertus said.

Head of West Kalimantan BKSDA Sustyo Iriono said the findings showed Kubu Raya has a high diversity of sea mammal species.

“This species is different from the one found in Mahakam waters in East Kalimantan,” said Sustyo, adding that the species was vulnerable to extinction, and its existence was very important to the ecosystem.

He said raising awareness among fishermen about the importance of preserving the animal is a challenge. Such a mammal was vulnerable to being trapped in trawls although the fisherfolk were not trying to catch the finless porpoises, he added.

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