Amazon River Dolphins and Sotalia Dolphins - Peru

Tucuxi dolphin
WDC is supporting Solinia, an organisation founded in Iquitos, the riverside capital city of the Peruvian Amazon. Solinia was founded by Cedric Gilleman and our shared goal is to build a Peruvian team to implement successful environmental awareness and conservation projects focusing on the conservation and protection of aquatic wildlife living in the Peruvian Amazon.


Solinia's founder and director, Cedric Gilleman, talks about Solinia: ''I founded Solinia to focus on the protection of river dolphin species living in Peru and facing many threats; the name, Solinia is derived from the Latin names of both types of river dolphin livng here in the Peruvian Amazon; Sotalia and Inia and also the Spanish for 'sun' which is 'sol'. '' 

The Peruvian Amazon has some of the richest biodiversity in the world; including two river dolphin species - the boto and sotalia.  River dolphins in the Peruvian Amazon face many increasing threats such as habitat destruction, entanglement in fishing nets, water development projects and deliberate killing.

Working together, Solinia and WDC decided that the first priority for the region is to address the lack of environmental awareness amongst residents of Iquitos as this is at th root of so many of the threats faced by river dolphins and the Amazon habitats surrounding the city.

Peruvian students have joined Solinia as volunteers and launched an exciting and interactive education programme in Iquitos to help local school children learn more about river dolphins living on their door step.  The children are learning about what they can do to help protect these incredible dolphins.  Solinia is promoting action including immediate practical changes in behaviour such as no longer disposing of plastic bottles and bags straight into the river. The Solinian team has developed some innovative resources for use in schools and riverine communities. Feedback from the school children on the river dolphin educaiton programme so far has been exceptional - they love singing, acting and taking part in art activities in particular.

Solinia's plans include a boat-based river dolphin monitoring project in Iquitos involving local people.  This is designed to highlight the main threats to the river dolphins and to address these problems.  Raising the profile of the river dolphins living close to Iquitos is important in gathering support for their conservation and motivating local people to get involved.  Fishermen in particular do not see botos in a positive light. This is because botos damage fishing nets taking fish from them and fishermen consider them as pests.

solinia logo

WDC has linked river dolphin experts together in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil to share expertise and ideas and improve conservation action for these vulnerable dolphins.

2015 - Latest News from Iquitos

WDC continues to support Solinia; a very young organisation which is changing the way people in the Peruvian Amazon perceive river dolphins living in nearby rivers and lakes.  Solinia has built an established group of volunteers trained and encouraged by Cedric Gilleman (founder of Solinia). They are spreading the word about river dolphin protection and aquatic wildlife conservation.  Volunteering time and energy to river dolphin conservation is not an easy option for people in Iquitos when they also need to try and make a living and support their families.  Iquitos is a rainforest community facing severe problems as a result of extreme poverty, illiteracy, annual flooding and a lack of jobs, clean water, education, hygiene, and healthcare.

Spreading the Word:

Solinia clocked over a 100 visits to primary schools in Iquitos last year; over 3000 children have been awarded with a certificate to acknowledge that they took part in the Solinia event and made a pledge to help protect river dolphins and their environment (see below). The action-based educational activities for these school children really seem to work and through this engagement they are also encouraged to take part in conservation efforts at home and school. With the help of Solinia volunteers, the children celebrate and learn more about 'their' river dolphins. They sing, dance, create origami dolphins, paint, draw, complete puzzles, see photos and listen to traditional conservation stories and learn about threats faced by river dolphins (especially devastating levels of pollution from plastic bags and bottles thrown into the river).  The children love the Solinia visits!  Solinia also attends community events outside the classroom and successfully gets children involved in enjoyable and educational activities (see photo below of Solinia volunteers and children with their origami taken on the riverbank).

Cedric and Solina volunteers present Peruvian school children with river dolphin and Amazon wildlfife protection certificates

Solinia volunteers with children with their pledge certificates and origami river dolphins on the river bank, Iquitos, Peru.


River Dolphin Monitoring:

Twice a week Solinia volunteers take to the river by boat to monitor and collect information about river dolphins. This is important not only to monitor threats, numbers of dolphins and what they are using different parts of the river for, but also to provide guardianship for them - other river users such as local fishermen and boat users know that Solinia is watching and looking out for the dolphins.


Solinia monitoring river dolphins, Iquitos, Peru.

 

Solinia volunteers record infomation about the river dolphins they encounter including numbers seen, their behaviour, calves present, their location and the proximity to fishing boats and the shore.  They also take some wonderful and inspiring photographs of the river dolphins to show the children and communities in Iquitos (see the beautifully-marked pink boto below).

The future

Cedric wishes to strengthen Solinia and build its capacity to speak out for river dolphin protection.  The goal is raise sufficient funding to pay at least expenses for volunteers and eventually employ some staff on a modest part-time salary basis so that a team of people are fully able to commit their time and energy to Solina's conservation work on a long term basis. 

The education programme will continue; there are thousands more children living in Iquitos whom Solinia needs to touch with its conservation messages and environmental education.  Children are known to have a big influence on their families' behaviour, and so the messages about the importance of protecting river dolphins and the river are spread far and wide.  Solinia also intends to develop its role in engaging with and advising the regional government, encouraging good environmental practices and decisions for Iquitos. 

Boto surfacing, Iquitos, Peru