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River dolphins, South America

WDC has been at the forefront of river dolphin conservation for nearly 30 years. We have focused on working with local organisations and communities with education playing a vital role in our efforts.

Colombia

WDC supports ‘Natütama’, an Indigenous Ticuna Indian community conservation project based in the Colombian Amazon.  Here, people share their Amazon home with an incredible variety of wildlife including Amazon River dolphins, manatees, caiman, and turtles. Families support themselves partly by fishing, growing crops in jungle gardens and small-scale hunting.  About thirty members of the community also work together running Natütama and their visitor centre located on the banks of the Amazon River and surrounded by flooded forest. Each year about 8000 tourists journey to the visitor centre by boat where they are treated to a unique guided tour of the underwater world of the Amazon flooded forest and river beaches. Visitors also learn about the important roles wild creatures play in Ticuna culture and legends. The centre is also used to host Natütama’s educational activities and events for local children and the wider community.

Natütama’s team works closely with the community and seeks their support for wildlife conservation efforts. The Ticuna educators regularly visit school classes and work with fishermen and hunters to reduce threats to wildlife and conserve the Amazon ecosystem for future generations and wildlife alike. They monitor river dolphin and other wildlife populations and address problems and conflicts that arise.

Each year to celebrate the river and wildlife, Natütama organises a week of community activities and entertainment. This includes colourful and joyful street theatre, puppet shows and performances in full costume and a carnival procession.

Bolivia

WDC supports Bolivian biologist, Dr Enzo Rossel’s work to protect Bolivian river dolphins which are known locally as bufeos.  Bolivia is a land-locked country in South America and so only has one type of dolphin living there. Thanks to Enzo’s efforts the government has declared that bufeos are part of Bolivia’s national natural heritage.

Bufeos are the only dolphins living in land-locked Bolivia; they are threatened by deliberate killing by humans, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and habitat degradation due to the unregulated development of industries and construction of hydro-electric dams.

These dolphins may soon be recognised as a separate species or subspecies of the Amazon River dolphin; they are isolated from other river dolphins living in the far reaches of their range only in Bolivia’s rivers (and in the Madeira River, just over the border in a small part of Brazil).

Enzo works with rural indigenous communities and local government authorities running educational programmes to promote understanding of and positive attitudes towards bufeos.  He provides training for Park Rangers and wildlife watching operators so that they can support bufeo conservation and habitat protection.

Enzo teaches people all about river dolphins and the key role they play in keeping the fish populations people rely on, healthy.  He promotes well-run, educational dolphin watching ecotourism efforts to help communities benefit financially from their wildlife conservation practices so their commitment to protecting bufeos will grow.

Peru

WDC supports Solinia, an Amazon River dolphin conservation project in Iquitos, a huge Peruvian city on the banks of the Amazon River.  Solinia’s team works in schools in Iquitos teaching children about the river dolphins, and how as mammals, they have much in common with humans. They also explain how important the dolphins are as top of the food web in the river ecosystem in maintaining healthy fisheries and how everyone can help protect river dolphins and all river life by reducing litter and plastics and other pollution getting into the water.

Solinia also keeps a close eye on the river dolphins living close to this Amazon city, and works hard to reduce threats such as accidental entanglement in nets and deliberate killing for bait.  Solinia promotes well run, educational dolphin watching activities, which helps to demonstrate to local people how valuable live dolphins are for the local economy.

Find out more about river dolphins and the four species that make up this unique group.

Amazon River dolphin (boto)
Baiji (Yangzte River dolphin)
Franciscana
South Asian river dolphin

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