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Harbour porpoise. Image: Charlie Phillips/WDC

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The state of river dolphin conservation

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we partner with conservationists and communities fighting to save river dolphins in their home countries. One of these collaborations is with WWF, with whom we’re working with to save river dolphin species and populations around the world. With all species either critically endangered or endangered, and the baiji (or Yangtze River dolphin) already driven to extinction as a result of human activities, we are at the forefront of river dolphin conservation and will continue to fight for a future for these magnificent beings before it's too late.

River dolphins live only in some rivers of Asia and South America and they need increased protection and better habitat connectivity (the ability to move from place to place with ease).


You can help save these magnificent beings from extinction

WWF Rivers Initiative carried out an assessment of the threats and management of river dolphin sites in Asia and South America. The assessment was completed by site managers for 40 sites across two continents, Asia and South America, in 10 of the 14 river dolphin range countries: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Peru.

Botos leaping in the Amazon river
Botos share their resources and habitats with millions of people and are suffering the consequences.

As we thought

The survey backed up what we knew - that threats to river dolphin survival are fairly similar on both continents, although sites in Asia reported over three times the level of threat than those in South America. Fishing activities are seen as the major threat, along with the impacts of climate change. Sites in Asia reported the emergence of new pressures, including industrial pollution and the impacts of deforestation and land-use change. In Asia not only are the threats to river dolphin survival higher, but the river dolphin populations are significantly smaller than in South America, meaning finding ways to protect them is a massive challenge. Worryingly, all countries predicted an increase in the intensity of threats, and population trends suggest some clear hotspots, with the Irrawaddy dolphin of India and South East Asia particularly at risk.

Irrawaddy dolphin
The Irrawaddy dolphin is critically endangered and needs better protection.

Education is key

WDC has supported projects across both Asia and South America over several decades, working with local organisations and communities to reduce the threats to river dolphins to ensure they survive and hopefully, one day, thrive. We currently support three conservation projects in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru that educate members of the community on the value of river dolphins, with the hope that their commitment to protecting them will grow once they understand their importance in maintaining the fish populations that they rely on.

We won't stop

Projects like these, and protected areas, are crucial for the long-term survival of threatened species and the assessment highlights once again that there is a lot more to be done. We will continue to work collaboratively to protect river dolphin individuals, populations and species – and the human populations who live alongside them – into the future. We’ve been proud to support some significant progress in river dolphin conservation but there is still a long way to go to bring these iconic dolphins back from the brink of extinction.

Amazon river dolphin spyhopping
We will continue to work with amazing people to save river dolphins.

Please help us today with a donation

If you are able to help, every gift, whether large or small, will help better protect these magnificent beings.