PHNOM PENH - A dam which Laos plans to build across the Mekong River could wipe out critically endangered dolphins in downstream Cambodia, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned Thursday.
If built, the controversial Don Sahong dam in southern Laos would be just a kilometre upstream of the main stretch of water favoured by the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin, WWF said in a statement.
With an estimated 85 adults, Cambodia hosts one of the largest populations of the species -- which is recognisable by its bulging forehead and distinctive blunt beak.
Conservationists have called for the suspension of the hydropower scheme, saying any restriction of the waterway will curb the number of fish swimming downstream and cut off the dolphins' main food source.
"If the Don Sahong dam is built, it will lead to the extinction of Mekong (Irrawaddy) dolphins," Chhith Sam Ath, WWF-Cambodia's country director, told reporters.
"Dolphins are very important for Cambodia. They attract tourists, they are a national treasure."