The Irrawaddy dolphin - also called "the smiling face of the Mekong" - has mainly been wiped out by the fishing industry. The fight for the dolphin's survival has always been intense. "Historically, as many as 40-50 dolphins are believed to have used the trans-boundary pool, with numbers falling to around 25 in the mid-1990s," WWF says in its statement.
Gillnets - vertical nets left in the water for extended periods of time by local fishermen - have been the dolphins' most recent and acute threat; the nets entangle the dolphins and kill them slowly. In 2012, Laos reportedly created a 110-mile dolphin protection zone, which banned the use of gillnets, but the ban hasn't been consistently enforced.
And for the few remaining dolphins, what might surely seal their fate is the construction of a massive new dam in the area, cites WWF. The proposed Don Sahong hydroelectric dam is just upstream from the river pool and the explosive that are used to excavate the rocks "has the potential to kill or seriously harm the sensitive hearing of the nearby dolphins," says WWF.
In a tragic irony, each year the dolphins reportedly bring in some 30,000 tourists - flocking down the river to catch a glimpse of this soon-to-be-extinct animal.
Clarification: There are only 5 Mekong River dolphins in the Laos population, not left in the species, as some readers understood from the original headline. The headline has been updated.