— Dr. Vera da Silva
Researcher for Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia
(National Institute for Amazon Research, Brazil)
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, as it accounts for more than a third of all tree cover across the tropics. The Amazon is home to some of the last "uncontacted" tribes who voluntarily live in isolation away from the rest of humanity. Being the largest rainforest comes with a plethora of biodiversity of flora and fauna: more than 40,000 plant species, including 16,000 tree species; 3,000 fish; 1,300 birds, 1,000 amphibians; 430 mammals, and 400 reptiles. However, being the largest rainforest also comes with the largest amount of deforestation. Between 2002 and 2019, more than 30 million hectares of primary forest was cleared from the region (about half the world’s total tropical primary forest loss during that period).
Amazon River Dolphins, also known as "Botos," can be found exclusively in the Amazon River system. In addition to be viewed as competition by fishermen, the amazon river dolphins are sought out to be used as bait for the Piracatinga catfish (also known as Mota or Capaz). In the Amazon region, fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Piracatinga fish are sold in neighboring countries as a delicacy, therefore, the Piracatinga export is the most profitable fish export in the Amazon. Amazon River Dolphins are being killed at an alarming rate because of this activity.
As of 2015, the Brazilian Government implemented a five-year moratorium that banned the fishing and export of Piracatinga catfish while an alternate bait was developed. Before the moratorium was put in place, it was estimated that over 5,000 amazon river dolphins were being hunted and killed each year. While Piracatinga fishing became a federal crime with the moratorium, the activity persisted illegally because of the profitability of the export. The fish are illegally exported into the neighboring countries where they are legally sold. Currently, it is estimated that 1,500 amazon river dolphins are being hunted and killed each year. Amazon river dolphin population decreases by half every 10 years.
As of 2020, the five-year moratorium has expired and has not been renewed. Additionally, an alternate bait was never developed, therefore, it is now legal to hunt and kill the Amazon River Dolphin to be used as Piracatinga bait.
The Amazon River Dolphin is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
IUCN conservation status: Endangered
Amazon River Dolphins, also known as "Botos," can be found in the Amazon River system. They average 6.5 feet in length and are often a rosy pink color.
The greatest threat to the Amazon River Dolphin is human activity. The Amazon River Dolphin is currently being illegally hunted to use as bait to attract Piracatinga catfish.
Learn some fun facts about the animals we work to conserve!
Our Amazon River "Botos" are the largest of only 4 river dolphin species!
Unlike its other marine mammal counterparts, the Amazon River Dolphin has unfused neck vertebrae which allows them to turn their head completely from side to side!
The Amazon River Dolphin has two types of teeth: cone-shaped (like bottlenose dolphins) and spade-shaped (like porpoises). These two types of teeth allow the Amazon River Dolphin to have a varied diet, as they eat a variety of fish (such as catfish & piranhas) and even are known to eat some turtles!
Boto gestation averages 13 months. Calves will stay with their mothers anywhere from 1-6 years!
In Amazonian folklore and culture, botos live in magical, underwater kingdoms and have supernatural powers. The boto is an ‘encantado’ – an enchanted shapeshifter living as a river dolphin by day and morphing into a handsome young man at night. Once transformed, the encantado leaves the river to attend parties and seduce young girls. These mysterious shapeshifters are not able to completely disguise themselves though and still have traces of their dolphin selves. To keep their identities safe, they always wear white hats to cover the blowhole still atop their heads and must return back to the river before morning.
Source: Whale & Dolphin Conservation
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