Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said the government had started a programme to boost population of river dolphin, the national aquatic animal of India.

Answering supplementaries in the Rajya Sabha during question hour, he said the population of dolphins in Gangetic area had been estimated between 2,000 and 3,000.

He said river dolphin was a unique heritage resource of India.

“We are in the process of recovery programme for Gangetic dolphin. The programme will be extended to Assam,” he said.

Answering another query, he said the government had sanctioned a white tiger breeding programme. However, he said that no such programme had been sanctioned for the royal Bengal tiger which did not face shortage of habitat.

To a question on encroachment in Manas National Reserve in Assam, he said it was the duty of state governments to maintain primary vigil while the central government can help with technology and other resources.

Question hour in the Rajya Sabha was held in the afternoon as Chairman Hamid Ansari last week changed its timing.

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