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After 8 Years! India’s 1st Dolphin Research Centre to Come Up in Patna

The population of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins was stable along nearly 1,000 km stretch of the Ganga

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India, Dolphin, Research
The development was a good news for conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins in the country. Pixabay

 The foundation stone of India’s first dolphin research centre will be laid here on October 5, after an eight-year delay since it was first mooted, an officer confirmed.

D.K. Shukla, the senior officer from Bihar’s Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said: “It was announced by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in state Assembly that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would lay the foundation stone of the National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) on October 5 on the bank of river Ganga in the premises of Patna University.”

Shukla said the development was a good news for conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins in the country.

According to Gopal Sharma, a senior scientist at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), the population of the endangered Gangetic river dolphins was stable along nearly 1,000 km stretch of the Ganga and its two major tributaries, Gandak and Ghaghra.

India, Dolphin, Research
The foundation stone of India’s first dolphin research centre will be laid here on October 5. Pixabay

More than 1,500 dolphins were spotted by three teams of experts and scientists who undertook the exercise of enumeration of the species earlier this year.

The NDRC will play an important role to strengthen conservation efforts and help in research to save the endangered mammal.

Another officer of the Department SAID the NDRC remained stuck for over four years due to refusal of Patna University to part with its land for it.

Unhappy over the delay, Nitish Kumar threatened last year that the NDRC might be shifted to Bhagalpur. After this, the varsity finally gave its clearance.

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A well reputed expert on the Gangetic river dolphins, R.K. Sinha, who is also the current Vice Chancellor of the Nalanda Open University in Patna said the NDRC will prove a boon for research and conservation of dolphin.

“It will help in reserach as well as conservation of dolphins.”

It was Sinha’s idea to set up the NDRC in Patna and a proposal was approved by then Planning Commission Chairman Montek Singh Ahulwalia during his visit here in mid 2011 and early 2012.

Within a year, the commission had sanctioned Rs 28.06 crore for the NDRC in 2013 followed by the state government that also released Rs 18,16 crore to the Infrastructure Development Authority in 2014. But till July 2018, the NDRC remained a non-starter.

India, Dolphin, Research
It was announced by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in state Assembly that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would lay the foundation stone. Pixabay

Sinha, known as the ‘Dolphin Man’ for his research of the Gangetic dolphins, said the species habitat has been threatened and disturbed in the river.

He said the Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal but frequently falls prey to poachers and sometimes killed without intention after being trapped in fishs net and hit by machines.

The mammals are killed at an alarming rate with wildlife officials saying poachers kill them for their flesh, fat and oil.

Sinha, who was conferred the Padma Shri for his research on dolphin, said dolphin presence is the sign of a healthy river ecosystem.

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Dolphins prefer water that is at least 5ft to 8ft deep. They are usually found in turbulent waters, where there are enough fish for them to feed on.

Gangetic dolphins live in a zone where there is little or no current, which helps them save energy. If they sense danger, they can dive into deeper waters.

The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return, Sinha added.

Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river in China, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river in South America.

The Gangetic river species – found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal – is blind and finds its way and prey in the river waters through echoes. These dolphins live by echolocation, and sound is everything to them.

They navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, and nurse babies by echolocation.  (IANS)

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Developers Can Now Start Building Hindi Skills for Alexa in India

Right now, Alexa can understand some Hinglish commands but these are few and far between

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Alexa, Amazon, Virtual Assistant
Amazon Echo led the Indian smart speakers market with 59 per cent share in 2018 (Representational image). Pixabay

Amazon on Tuesday announced that developers can now start building Alexa skills for customers in India with the new Hindi voice model available in Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).

Developers would get a headstart and submit skills for certification as the company prepare to offer engaging experiences for Alexa users in one of the most spoken languages in the country, the company said in a statement.

Commercial hardware manufacturers who want to develop Alexa Built-in products for Hindi-speaking customers in India can request early access to the invite-only Alexa Voice Service (AVS) developer preview.

The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a collection of free, self-service APIs and tools that make it fast and easy for developers to create skills, or capabilities, for Alexa.

Amazon last year launched a new category of skill called “Cleo” that enables customers in India help Alexa learn Hindi and other languages. The idea was to improve Alexa’s language model and help her gradually speak in local languages.

Lawsuit, Amazon, Alexa
The lawsuit alleges Amazon of saving ‘voice prints’ of millions of children by unlawfully recording their conversations around Alexa-enabled smart devices. Pixabay

Apart from Hindi, users can respond to Alexa’s English statements in Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati and other regional languages.

Alexa is currently available in over 80 countries and speaks more than 14 language variants.

One can sign up for the first webinar on Hindi skill building scheduled on July 24. Developers in India who have their Hindi-language skill certified for publication in India before July 31 would receive exclusive early bird Alexa merchandise.

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Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, told IANS recently that the company is working on infusing regional languages capabilities in Alexa for the Indian market but these are early days.

Right now, Alexa can understand some Hinglish commands but these are few and far between. (IANS)