Citizen Science: sustainable tourism contributes to the conservation of river dolphins and other aquatic species in Northern Amazon

Posted on 16 March 2020
Delfines de río
© / Franco Banfi / WWF
  • Citizen Science is an innovative way of monitoring wildlife, and tourists can get involved in the process, learning about biodiversity that inhabits the area they are visiting, thorugh the use of a novel and didactic tool.
  • 250 vertebrate species have been registered during the dry and humid seasons.
  • Environmental DNA is a technique that has the potential of collecting big amounts of biological information in short periods of time, following a simple procedure that can be used by any citizen.
The Citizen Science initiative is looking to create awareness on the importance of aquatic environments in the Amazon and, at the same time, promote the conservation of river dolphins, both gray and Pink, going hand in hand with citizens and tourists.
To achieve that, we have the support of three tourism operators from Loreto: Tahuayo Lodge, Paseos Amazonicos, and Muyuna Lodge, which have been provided with the required kits for developing two sampling events in different periods, and they found this experience to be of added value in addition to the services they normally provide the tourists with.
Thanks to them, we have involved tourists in monitoring of biodiversity, through the sampling of evironmental DNA, collecting water or sediment containing cells with genetic material belonging to different species present in the ecosystem.
As a result, a total of 32 samples were obtained. During the dry season, from a total of 17 samples, 171 species of fish, 30 mammal species, 13 bird species, 21 amphibian species and 1 reptile species were detected. The vertebrate group with the most detections was fish. Among them, Schizodon sp. (lisa), and Prochilodus sp. (boquichico) stood out, while the most frecuent mammal was Inia geoffrensis (pink river dolphin), which was detected in seven samples.
Thanks to the citizen and tourism operator’s comittment, we are now capable of collecting further data on river dolphins, and therefore find out more about the threats they are facing, such as over fishing, and the deterioration of their habitat, caused by the construction of infraestructure, contamination, and deforestation.
In order to continue obtaining important information that will facilitate decision making regarding conservation, we’re inviting more tourism operators to join this initiative, so that we can continue discovering and conservating sweet water ecosystems and the great predators of amazonic rivers, which are key species, given that they allow us to learn about the state of their habitat. If river dolphins can be found, this means that the ecosystem is a healthy one.

Delfines de río
© / Franco Banfi / WWF Enlarge