Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; Peru; Venezuela.
The Amazon River dolphins, also known as the Boto Dolphins or Amazon Pink River Dolphins are playful, curious and intelligent mammals, the largest river dolphin species in the world. Known for their stunning pink coloured skin they are endangered due to human-related threats like agriculture, mining and pollution.
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Amazon River Dolphins are typically solitary or move in groups of 2-3 individuals. However, they have been found to gather in groups of up to 15-30 individuals and congregate together in order to hunt prey during their most active times: dusk and dawn. They are highly communicative, playful and curious animals and will investigate the arrival of boats on the river.
They communicate through gestures like rolling, lob tailing and flipper waving to other dolphins. They are highly playful and have been known to toy with underwater grass, floating logs, turtles and fish.
The murky water of Amazonian rivers means that echolocation is key for them to navigate and find prey in mangroves and flooded forests.
Appearance & Behaviour
Amazon River Dolphins are the world’s largest river dolphin species and can reach a length of 2.55m and 185 kg for males and 2.15m and 150kg for females.
They are incredibly flexible due to some of their vertebrae being unfused, this means that they can swivel their heads in almost any direction. Countless Amazonian tribes have rich folklore, myth and legend related to these dolphins including one prominent tale where the Amazon River Dolphin shapeshifts into a handsome man in order to seduce young women into the water.
Their body colour varies with juvenile dolphins being dark grey. They transform to lighter grey and pink due to repeated abrasive encounters and intraspecies aggression with other dolphins. Colour is also believed to be related to water transparency, temperature and geographic location.
Their teeth vary in size and shape (they are hererodonts), this enables them to grab and crush prey. They breath every 30-110 seconds and prefer to stay close to the surface rather than dive deeply.
Amazon River Dolphins are threatened by:
- Hydroelectric dams on Amazonian rivers: The draining of dams means that prey species of the dolphin are not available.
- Fishing: Either intentional or unintentional injury or death as a result of boats and fishing nets.
- Agricultural pollution run-off and ecocide: From cattle grazing, soy and palm oil agriculture.
- Gold mining: Mercury pollution run-off destroying river ecosystems.
- Human persecution: Fishermen see them as competition for fish and kill them deliberately.
The Amazon River Dolphin is a river dwelling mammal who lives in the drainage basins of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers. They also live in the rivers and streams with a slow current and they harness the natural flooding season of the mangrove and forest river ecosystems for their breeding.
The Amazon River Dolphin has a wide ranging diet and feeds upon dozens of species of fish, river turtles, frogs and crabs.
Mating and breeding
Unlike other species of dolphin (which favour females being larger than males), Amazon River Dolphins have noticeably larger males than females. Males display aggressive behaviour to one another and bite, damaging each other’s fins, flukes and blow-holes.
This aggression is related to mating rights with females. Typically, both males and females have a number of different mates (polyandry). The breeding season is between October and November and once pregnant the mother will have a gestation period of 11 months. A mother will give birth typically once every five years.
Once the baby is born, the mother will help her baby to come to the surface for air and the mother will nurse the baby for up to a year after birth, with the youngster becoming fully independent within 2-3 years. Females reach sexual maturity between 6-10 years old, with males starting a little later: 7-12 years old.
The birthing season is around May to June and this coincides with the annual flooding of the forest which provides an advantage for the infant as more food is available during this time than at other times of the year. This helps the baby to grow rapidly.
The long period of breastfeeding and maternal care indicates a strong mother-baby bond and that learning during this period is complex.
Support Amazon River Dolphins by going vegan and boycotting palm oil and gold, it’s the #Boycott4Wildlife
You can support this beautiful animal
da Silva, V., Trujillo, F., Martin, A., Zerbini, A.N., Crespo, E., Aliaga-Rossel, E. & Reeves, R. 2018. Inia geoffrensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T10831A50358152. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T10831A50358152.en. Accessed on 31 October 2022.
Read more about Gold Mining in the Amazon and why you should #BoycottGold4Yanomami and #Boycott4Wildlife
Hunger for Gold in the Global North is fueling a living hell in the Global South. Here are 20 reasons why you should #BoycottGold4YanomamiRead more
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