Today, the 14th of April, is World Dolphin Day. This is a day dedicated to the hugely intelligent and wonderfully inquisitive cetaceans that roam our oceans and rivers. Also known as the pink river dolphin, or boto, the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) is a freshwater dolphin that inhabits the waterways of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America.
The largest river dolphin species in the world, these marine mammals can reach 2.5m in length and weigh over 180kg in males. They are often called pink river dolphins as the adults develop a pinkish tint, thought to be caused by repeated abrasion of the skin surface. Males tend to be pinker than females because they are involved in more intra-species conflict.
Strictly carnivorous, the Amazon river dolphin feeds on a plethora of aquatic animals; they are known to consume up to 53 species of fish – one of the widest ranging diets among all toothed cetaceans! Common menu items include catfish, piranhas, river turtles and freshwater crabs.
The aim of World Dolphin Day is to ultimately raise awareness for these species and the threats they face. For pink river dolphins, their only threat is us. Fishermen see them as pests, and may hunt them to reduce the competition for fish. Moreover, these dolphins can easily get tangled up in fishing nets or suffer wounds colliding with boats. The petroleum industry is also a major threat – oil leaks cause irreparable damage to the fragile aquatic ecosystems in which these dolphins live.
Amazon river dolphins were once seen as magical creatures by traditional Amazonian people, believing they had special powers. For this reason, they were spared from mankind’s destructive hands. However, now we seem to have forgotten the phenomenal majesty of these dolphins, subsequently they are listed as endangered. Humans need to re-establish the humble connection we once had with our wildlife.