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Amazon River dolphin (Boto)

Meet the river dolphins

Did you know that some rare dolphins do not live in the salty ocean? They live in freshwater water rivers and lakes in South America and Asia.

Amazon River dolphins are known as botos and share their magnificent rainforest home with manatees, anacondas (water snakes), giant otters, crocodiles, crabs, and enormous fish. In the rainy season, the Amazon’s rivers and lakes overflow, and botos can swim amongst the trees and shrubs of the flooded forest.

Botos don’t look like other dolphins. Their bodies are pink and they have big paddle-shaped flippers. Their snouts are long and skinny, and they have big bulging cheeks and foreheads. Botos have unusually bendy necks and can move their heads up and down and side to side. They are agile underwater, swimming amongst the submerged trees and bushes. Botos can swim upside down, on their sides, and even backwards. They eat fish, crabs, shrimps and even turtles they find hiding in the tangles of branches, plants and mud.

Male botos do funny things to attract females – they wave plants and bits of wood about and slap the water with them to show off! Female botos give birth to one baby at a time and take very good care of them for a few years. Baby botos are grey when born and become pinker as they grow up.

Like all river dolphins, sadly botos face many human threats and are now an endangered species.  Hunting, fishing nets, dam building, and pollution from mining, all kill botos.

Botos are the star of many Amazon legends and traditional stories. Local people believe botos are magical shape shifters who can disguise themselves as handsome young men called encantados and leave the river and dance at parties with girls at parties. The botos always return to the river and transform back to dolphins before daybreak!

WDC supports projects to protect botos in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

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