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River dolphins, South America

WDC has been at the forefront of river dolphin conservation for more than three decades. We have focused on working with local organisations and communities with education playing a vital role in our efforts.


WDC supports ‘Natütama’, an Indigenous Ticuna Indian community conservation project based in a town called Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon.  Here, people share their Amazon home with an incredible variety of wildlife including Amazon River dolphins, manatees, caiman, and turtles. Families support themselves partly by fishing, growing crops in jungle gardens and small-scale hunting.  About thirty members of the community also work together running Natütama and their visitor centre located on the banks of the Amazon River and surrounded by flooded forests. Each year about 8000 tourists journey to the visitor centre by boat (there are no roads to Puerto Narino and so no cars) where they are treated to a unique guided tour of the underwater world of the Amazon flooded forest and river beaches. Visitors also learn about the important roles wild creatures play in Ticuna culture and legends. The centre is also used to host Natütama’s educational activities and events for local children and the wider community.

Natütama’s team works closely with the community and seeks their support for local wildlife protection conservation efforts. The Ticuna educators regularly visit school classes and work with fishermen and hunters to reduce threats to wildlife and conserve the Amazon ecosystem for future generations and wildlife alike. They monitor river dolphin and other wildlife populations and address problems and conflicts that arise.

Each year to celebrate the river and wildlife, Natütama organises a week of community activities and entertainment. This includes colourful and joyful street theatre, puppet shows and performances in full costume, and a carnival procession through the town to the riverside.


WDC supports Bolivian conservationist, Dr Enzo Aliaga-Rossel and his team to protect and conserve Bolivian river dolphins which are known locally as bufeos.  Bolivia is a land-locked country in South America and so does not have any marine whales and dolphins. Bufeos are the only dolphins who live in Bolivia’s rainforest rivers and are unique. Thanks to Enzo’s efforts the government has declared that bufeos are part of Bolivia’s national natural heritage.

Bufeos are threatened by deliberate killing by humans, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and habitat degradation due to the unregulated development of industries and the construction of hydro-electric dams.

These dolphins may soon be recognised as a separate species or subspecies of the Amazon River dolphin; they are isolated from other river dolphins living in the far reaches of their range only in Bolivia’s rivers (and in the Madeira River, just over the border in a small part of Brazil).

Enzo works with a small team in rural indigenous communities and local government authorities running educational programmes to promote understanding of and positive attitudes towards bufeos.  They provide training for Park Rangers and wildlife watching operators so that they can support bufeo conservation and habitat protection. They also run workshops and activity days in local schools to ensure children understand the value and importance of protecting bufeos in the rivers and lakes. The children are Bolivia’s decision-makers of the future and so it is very important they understand how special their only native dolphins are.

Enzo and his team teach children and adults alike all about bufeos and the key role they play in keeping the fish populations people rely on, healthy. They promote well-run, educational dolphin watching ecotourism efforts to help communities benefit financially from their wildlife conservation practices so their commitment to protecting bufeos will grow.


WDC supports Solinia, an Amazon River dolphin conservation organisation based in Iquitos, a huge Peruvian city on the banks of the Amazon River.  Solinia’s team works in schools in Iquitos teaching children about the river dolphins, and how as mammals, they have much in common with humans. They also explain how important the dolphins are right at the top of the food web in the river ecosystem. Healthy river dolphin populations maintain healthy fisheries, and everyone can help protect river dolphins and all river life by reducing litter and plastics and other pollution getting into the water.

Solinia also keeps a close eye on the river dolphins living close to this Amazon city and works hard to reduce threats such as accidental entanglement in nets and the deliberate killing of river dolphins for fish bait.  Solinia promotes well run, educational dolphin-watching activities, which helps to demonstrate to local people how valuable live dolphins are for the local economy.

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