Habitat selection by a species during scarcity and varying resource availability can give important insights into the requirements crucial to its survival. We conducted a study in a stretch of the upper Ganges River to assess the status and distribution of endangered Ganges River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica) and fishing activities. We also evaluated the resource selection criteria of the species using an occupancy-based approach to determine the influence of different habitat covariates on dolphin detection and occupancy across varying river discharge conditions. Occupancy modeling indicated that water depth, fish relative abundance, and fishing intensity were the best predictors of dolphin occupancy. Increase in fishing activities was identified as the most significant threat to dolphin conservation in this stretch of river. We suggest strengthening awareness and capacity building of fishermen communities and programs for improving their livelihoods. Our study extends the applicability of occupancy-based surveys to elusive aquatic mammal species and recommends its scope throughout the entire distribution range of the species so that it can help to identify priorities for its conservation and management.
©2012 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston