'Catastrophic' Bangladesh oil spill threatens rare dolphins

In this photograph taken on December 9, 2014, a Bangladeshi oil-tanker lies half-submerged after it was hit by a cargo vessel on the Shela River in the Sundarbans in Mongla. AFP Photo

An oil spill from a crashed tanker in Bangladesh is threatening endangered dolphins in the vast Sundarbans delta, officials warned Dec. 11, calling it an ecological "catastrophe."
The tanker was carrying an estimated 357,000 litres (77,000 gallons) of oil when it sank in the Sundarbans' Shela river, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins, after colliding with another vessel on Tuesday.
The accident occurred inside one of three sanctuaries set up for the dolphins, said Rubayat Mansur, Bangladesh head of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.
Rescue vessels have now salvaged the tanker, but officials said the damage had been done as the slick had spread to a second river and a network of canals in the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles India and Bangladesh.
"It's a catastrophe for the delicate ecology of the Sundarbans," the area's chief forest official Amir Hossain told AFP.
"The oil spill has already blackened the shoreline, threatening trees, plankton, vast populations of small fishes and dolphins."       

Hossain said the oil had spread over a 60-kilometre-long (37-mile-long) area of the Sundarbans.
Spread over 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 square miles), the Sundarbans is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and home to hundreds of Bengal tigers. The delta comprises a network of rivers and canals.
Mansur said Bangladesh's coastal areas including the Sundarbans were the "largest known home" of the Irrawaddy dolphins.
"Irrawaddy Dolphins can be found in South East Asia. But their population size is very small compared to Bangladesh," said Mansur.
Bangladesh set up...

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