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Freshwater biodiversity conservation

© Day's Edge Productions / WWF-US

The Amazon river basin is the largest on the planet and provides one of the fifth world's freshwater. It is home to a great diversity of species, including the Amazonian manatee, Trichechus inunguis, and 4 species of river dolphins of them: the pink dolphin, Inia geoffrensis, the gray dolphin, Sotalia fluviatilis, are distributed in Peru and are considered as indicator species of the health of rivers, lagoons, and wetlands.

What is the issue? 

In order to understand the natural dynamics and the conservation status of wildlife that inhabits rivers, lagoons, and wetlands in the Amazon, it is necessary to generate information to fill the gaps. They are related to their distribution, habitat use and behavior, as well as the progress of their populations over time, the ones that face multiple threats. Some of them are bycatch (incidental capture) in fishing nets,targeted capture, water pollution and poor planning infrastructure and river transport projects. As a consequence, the availability and connectivity of their habitats is limited.Also, it alters the presence and distribution of Amazonian fish, affecting the food chain on which many species depend to survive.

What is WWF doing?

Reducing the threats faced by river dolphins and the Amazonian manatee, through the study of their populations and the monitoring and mitigation of bycatch alongside the collaboration and training of the.

How do we do this?

WWF-Peru is focused on understanding the scope of the effects of fishing practices that generate threats to river dolphins, as well as their mitigation and reduction by using different innovative technologies towards more sustainable practices. To achieve this, acoustic devices called pingers will be tested, which, through the emission of certain frequencies, prevent the dolphins from approaching the nets to consume the enmeshed fish and/or being accidentally trapped in them. In the same way, WWF is looking to comprehend the conditions that favor the use of different spaces for river dolphins throughout their distribution in the Amazon, for this, we use marking devices that allow satellite tracking of these species.

Who do we work with?

WWF works jointly with other organizations dedicated to the conservation of river dolphins such as Solinia and Pro Delphinus, and is part of the South American River Dolphins Initiative (SARDI), a regional network. Likewise, we provide support to government institutions such as PRODUCE, aligning efforts to the conservation priorities identified in the National Action Plan for the conservation of river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis and Sotalia fluviatilis) and Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) in Peru.

© WWF-Peru

What are the big wins?

  1. WWF-Peru has been involved in the conservation of river dolphins since 2014, promoting the approval of the National Action Plan for the conservation of river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis and Sotalia fluviatilis) and Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) in Peru, being the only country in South America where the development of such a conservation instrument is pending . Through the alliance with the national NGO Pro Delphinus, WWF worked to promote the promulgation of the Plan, which was approved by Supreme Decree of the Vice Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Ministry of Production on December 14, 2018.
  2. Since 2015, WWF Peru, in collaboration with other organizations such as Solinia and Pro Delphinus, has been preparing information on bycatch of river dolphins in 22 fishing ports and populated centers in Loreto and Ucayali regions, as well as in 8 border areas of Colombia and Brazil, identifying those localities that register the greatest amount of interactions between fishers and river dolphins, as well as the need to undertake efforts to reduce this problem.
  3. In 2017, the first expedition was carried out to estimate the abundance of dolphins in the Huallaga and Marañón, led by the alliance between Pro Delphinus and WWF, obtaining density estimates for both species. In the same way, the expedition took samples at 12 points for the evaluation of environmental DNA, a tool that allows us to know which species of vertebrates coexist with dolphins in the Amazon.
  4. In 2018, eight river dolphins were tagged in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve to determine the movements of individuals and hypothesize the factors that may be conditioning their use of the environment. The results of these investigations prompted regional efforts to foster new conservation initiatives, as well as decisions on the conservation of freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon.

Following steps

  • Cross-border expeditions of river dolphins will be carried out in the basins of the Putumayo and Napo rivers, to estimate the densities of both species and the tagging of dolphins that will help to determine their behavior in different environments and to identify priority habitats for their conservation.
  • The creation of a document on incidental and directed capture of river dolphins in previously unexplored areas will be promoted to know the different factors that propitiate these threats and thus develop specific strategies on it.
  • A pilot project with acoustic devices will be developed to mitigate the effects of bycatch of river dolphins and to promote good practices for their conservation.
  • WWF is supporting the creation of a regional conservation and management plan for these species within the International Whaling Commission (IWC), in conjunction with the governments of Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia.

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