Last chance to see pink river dolphins?
I was lucky enough to go on the trip of a lifetime recently, to the rainforest of Peru. I’d been planning for this trip for a long time, scraping together any spare cash over the years and finally, I got my chance. Working in the fundraising team at WDC we often talk about all the different species of whales and dolphins around the world, I even help put together the WDC dolphin adoption updates with Charlie Phillips for our many incredible adopters. But as I am not a scientist, I am rarely out in ‘the field’ and don’t often get to see dolphins in real life beyond heading up to the north coast of Scotland to visit the resident bottlenose dolphins near our Scottish Dolphin Centre.
So, heading out onto the Amazon River to seek out the Amazon River dolphin, or boto, was an incredibly exciting opportunity for me to see these exotic dolphins in their natural environment. This feeling of excitement was paired with worry, that I might not see them, and miss my opportunity!
Peru is not easy to get to from the UK and this would likely be my only chance. River dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon face many increasing threats such as habitat destruction as a result of industrial development, entanglement in fishing nets, and deliberate killing. Whilst getting to Peru might be easier to do in the future, the sad truth is that the dolphins themselves might not be around anymore for future generations to see!
As we headed out onto the river in a small wooden boat, the expectation in the air was tangible. We listened intently for any disturbances on the water, swinging our heads around at any sound of the water breaking, hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins. All was quiet. The sun was setting and the light fading. Hope also started to fade.
But then we saw the unmistakable pink body of a dolphin rising up out of the water and immediately sinking below the murky surface again! And then quiet once more. These were unlike the bottlenose dolphins in Scotland I’ve watched swimming and leaping with their families and friends. Amazon River dolphins are much more elusive, coming up once for air and then disappearing again. They were impossible to photograph, so I soon gave up. Instead, I just sat calmly watching from a distance, enjoying the quick, sporadic flashes revealing their presence. The sun was setting over the river and the colour of the sky matched that of the dolphins. It was very peaceful and I felt very lucky. It is an experience I will never forget.
I hope that the things will improve for Amazon River dolphins and that their future can look more positive. But that will only happen with human effort. We need to educate communities and encourage them to stop killing these beautiful creatures to use as bait to catch sharks, and we need to be mindful of the impact of industry and take measures to reduce their impact on the Amazon environment. With your support, we will continue to work hard to protect them, working with experts and projects around the world.
If you’d like to support our work and help give these unique dolphins a future, please consider making a donation today.