By Suzanne Smith
The Amazon river dolphin faces many challenges due to factors such as pollution, habitat degradation, and boat traffic. Sadly, Amazon river dolphins are being slaughtered by the thousands to be used as bait for catfish (a.k.a. piracatinga) which is exported to neighboring countries.
No one knows the impact that all of these factors are having on the river dolphin population. The Amazon River covers a massive area, and it is increasingly difficult to regulate and enforce the laws. One river dolphin, the baiji, has already gone extinct in our lifetime due to many of the same pressures. We cannot afford to lose another species of river dolphin.
The Amazon River Dolphin Conservation Foundation (ARDCF) is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization that is working to conserve the Amazon river dolphin and its environment through research, education and collaboration.
The organization is purchasing equipment and supplies for local residents to assist in observational sightings of resident Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) and tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). These sightings will help create a photo identification log of all the individuals.
Collaborating with local residents, researchers can begin to assess the wild river dolphin populations in Anavilhanas National Park in Amazonas, Brazil, which has not been done previously in this area. We will provide workshops for local guides and visitors to ensure they become a part of the team to help save the Amazon river dolphin and its environment. In the future, we will be working on additional projects that will tell us more such as foraging patterns, health status, and the distance and locations they travel.
In August of 2014, we were a part of a workshop organized for local guides who are interested in conservation initiatives in the national park. I was impressed by the number of people who wanted to be a part of the workshop. There were representatives from the federal government, local guides and residents. Each person who attended was clearly passionate about the Amazon and the entire ecosystem. Everyone was eager to help and share their knowledge of the river, the natural resources, and all of the wildlife. Through a common affection for the Amazon, friendships were formed that day. It was inspiring to be a part of a team who wants to conserve the Amazon river and all of its inhabitants. Some solutions were forged and there is still more to be done. We are so excited to continue our journey with such a committed group of individuals.
Just recently, ARDCF returned from Brazil after a 10 day eco-tour on the Amazon and the Rio Negro. It was a great experience sharing our love of the Amazon with twenty people from around the world. We traveled with Amazonia Expeditions aboard the Dorinha. We hiked in the jungle, fished for red-bellied piranhas, learned dances from native villagers, toured the city of Manaus, and marveled at all of the Amazonian wildlife including the Amazon river dolphin and the tucuxi. Each day was adventure with unexpected surprises and new experiences with wildlife.
There are many things you can do to help. Join us on an expedition to the Amazon, your donations help contribute to guide salaries, equipment for local residents to observe their resident dolphins, conservation educational messaging to residents and visitors to the area about the plight of the Amazon river dolphin and its environment, development and implementation of more exciting projects that simply need funding.
Suzanne Smith has a passion for marine mammals and is a strong advocate for environmental conservation. She is the Executive Director and Founder of the Amazon River Dolphin Conservation Foundation (ARDCF). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Salem State University. She has worked with numerous marine mammal species both under human care and in the wild. Her contributions to marine mammals have been featured on PBS, BBC, and SeaRescue. Ms. Smith’s award winning project with the Amazon river dolphins was presented at the 2015 conference of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association. With the continuing development of ARDCF, Ms. Smith is dedicated to increasing awareness of the plight of river dolphins and how to conserve this species.