Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)





The Amazon River Dolphin is found swimming in the waters of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. Right now this species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and CITES. It is important to determine which activities are the most hazardous to their survival in order to effectively make progress towards conserving the remaining population. It is of high priority to identify and reduce these harmful activities in order to remove the dolphins from the endangered list and solidify their role in preserving the wide variety of biodiversity found in the Amazon.












About the Amazon River Dolphin

Biodiversity...Why does it matter?

Activities detrimental to the survival of this species

What can we do??

Annotated Bibliography

Related Links











About the Amazon River Dolphin

There are three subspecies of this freshwater river dolphin: 1)geoffrensis geoffrensis: Found in the Amazon and Araguaia/Tocantins River basins. 2)geoffrensis boliviensis: Found in the upper Madeira River of Bolivia. 3)geoffrensis humboldtiana: Located in the Orinoco basin. Because they are unfused, the neck vertebrae of the dolphin is able to rotate 180 degrees. The Amazon river dolphin has about 100 peg-like front teeth which are essential for catching prey. Its diet mostly consists of crustaceans, crabs, small turtles, catfish, piranhas, and various otherfish. Female dolphins are 8.25 to 9.75 feet long (2.5 to 3 meters), and can weigh as much as a full grown human man, about 200 pounds. Males are normally larger than females. The IUCN lists alternate names for this species including: Boto Vermelho, Boto Cor-de-Rosa, Bouto, Inia, Pink Dolphin, Wee Quacker, Pink Freshwater Dolphin, Pink Porpoise, Tonina and Encantado. There are many traditional folklore legends told in the Amazon about encounters with the exquisite animal and it is highly respected by the local community.

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Biodiversity...Why does it matter?

Maintaining variety in biodiversity is important for several reasons. Ecosystem stability may the be most important because if the functionality of an ecosystem deteriorates, then all surrounding habitats will begin to feel the effects like a wave going outwards in all directions until some type of balance can be achieved again. However, once control has been lost it will be extremely difficult to manipulate nature into reversing the damage we could have prevented. Ecosystem stability is the backbone of ecosystem functionality. Essential ecosystem services are grouped into four categories: 1)Provisioning: Production of food and water; 2)Regulating: Control of climate and disease; 3)Supporting: Such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; 4)Cultural: Spiritual and recreational benefits. Each species that contribute to the make-up of an ecosystem habitat fill a specific niche in the system. Having a greater variety of biodiversity allows for a better collective use of resources. These are all important reasons explaining why attention must be brought to endangered species such as the Amazon River Dolphin. Also, on top of elements that come with ecosystem functionality, the simple aesthetic value of the existence of this species should be respected and continued.

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Activities detrimental to the survival of this species

Activities that place the ARD at highest risk include:
-Increasing environmental deterioration
-Deliberate dolphin hunting
-Accidental drowning in gill nets
-Decrease in water level
-Poor water management
-Municipal sewage
-Indirect threats to food supply, including over-fishing, deforesting of river edge, agriculture polluting, paper milling and mining
-Hydroelectric dam building which reduces the number of fish species in the surrounding area and isolates populations of dolphins

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What can we do??

Deforestation, agricultural pollution, and other detrimental activities are caused by direct human interaction with the forest habitats. The best way to get support for conservation projects is to bring awareness to the negative impacts that humans are inducing. Many projects are being organized and implemented to diminish theses harmful affects. An example can be taken from the conservation project funded by the WWF to help the Indus River Dolphin. The project was created to conserve the species by protecting the innate biodiversity of the lower Indus river basin Eco-system, and reducing the losses of Indus river dolphins by canal stranding through rescue operations. Other significant project activities include the improvement of agricultural practices through the development of Better Management Practices (BMPs) and awareness through a conservation centre and ecotourism.  The project also incorporates a strong component of supporting livelihoods of stakeholder communities. (
Ecotourism is an alternative form of tourism that brings in revenue for local communities while simultaneously protecting the environment and bringing awareness to the efforts made for conservation of wildlife.  It is important to support projects trying to improve the conditions of the environment so that the ecosystem remains stabilized.

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Annotated Bibliography:

Dams and River Dolphins: Can They Co-Exist?

Dam construction is one of the ways that humans have contributed to affecting the habitat of the River Dolphin. Dams and other obstructions created by humans reduce the complexity of the physiographic and hydrological make-up of the river, which is suggested to be critical to the survival of animals dependant on the underwater habitats.
Hydroelectric dams are statistically reducing the number of fish species and isolating the populations of the dolphins.

Reeves, Randall R.; Leatherwood, Stephen, Ambio Vol.23, No. 3 (May, 1994), pp. 172-175, Published by: Allen Press on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of sciences

Aquatic Mammal Conservation in Latin America: Problems and Perspectives

This article lists the primary causes placing the dolphin at risk as 1) artisanal fisheries and resulting incidental catches; 2) pollution from agriculture, industry, and mining; 3) deforestation, which poses a threat to the entire river system; and 4) hydroelectric dam development as the most damaging element.

Vidal, Omar, Conservation Biology, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 788-795, Published by: Blackwell Publishing for Society for Conservation Biology
Amazonian Nature Reserves: An Analysis of the Defensibility Status of Existing Conservation Units and Design Criteria for the Future

This article questions the effectiveness of “established” tropical reserve regions. Understaffing, ineffective implementation of boundaries, and financial and constitutional constraints are all aspects that are more likely to encourage unlawful human activity instead of deterring it. This is an interesting element to consider because even though a region may be “conserved” on paper, does not mean that it is realistically safe from
human dangers.

Terborgh, John W.; Peres, Carlos A., Source: Conservation Biology, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 34-46, Published by: Blackwell Publishing for Society for Conservation Biology
National Geographic Profile

National Geographic states several causes of dolphin habitat damage to be selective logging of the kapok tree, conversion of open floodplains to cattle ranching sites, over fishing, mercury pollution from gold mining, and untreated sewage.

World Wildlife Fund-2004
Mongabay: New Dolphin Species

States reasons why the dolphin is reaching an extremely vulnerable state, as well as suggesting ideas to reduce the accumulating damage. (April 30, 2008). New species of river dolphin discovered in the Amazon.


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Related Links:


1) International Society for the Preservation of the Tropical Rainforest (Pink and Gray River Dolphins)

This site is very informative on the biology of the river dolphins, their physical appearance, social habits, and their relationship with people.

2) The Mighty Amazon and River Dolphin-Wild South America

This is a BBC video filmed in the Amazon of South America and it shows the dolphin in action.

3)Project Boto

A website by a non-profit research project that is increasing knowledge, understanding, and the conservation prospects of the Amazon River Dolphin.

4)Ecotourism in the Amazon

This is an article on how ecotourism is integrated as a form of income and wildlife preservation in the Amazon and how to support it.

5) Amazon River: history and ecological concerns

History of the Amazon River and the ecological concerns it has faced because of the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and energy facilities in order to improve the economy.



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Page created by:

Mitiele Konrath

Forestry 414

North Carolina State University

Last Updated: April 29th, 2010