Cambodian Leader U-Turns on Rare Dolphin Conservation Law

Cambodian leader Hun Sen on Thursday cancelled a law he created just two months ago to protect critically endangered Mekong dolphins as the mammals continue to die from illegal fishing activities.

The population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the river Mekong has dwindled from 200, when the first census was taken in 1997, to just 89 in 2020 largely due to illegal fishing and habitat loss.

Hun Sen issued a new decree in February creating protection zones in a 120-kilometre (75-mile) stretch of the Mekong, in which fishing is banned, following the death of three dolphins in a week.

Conservationists have also stepped up efforts to protect the mammals — small, shy creatures with domed foreheads and short beaks that once swam through much of the river, all the way to the delta in Vietnam.

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