Fishin' for Facts: Boto River Dolphins

Common name: Boto River Dolphins, also known as Amazon River Dolphin and the pink dolphin

Scientific name: Inia geoffrensis


River Dolphin Highlights

Are you looking for an unusual whale? Why not look in an unusual place? Try looking in a river. Or in a tree. If you're looking for a Boto or Amazon river dolphin you'd be looking in the right place!

Where are they found?

The boto is found only in South America. They live in the Amazon and Orinoco river systems. During the rainy season the rivers overflow on to the banks, flooding in to the forest.  In some places the water can rise as much as 30 feet above the dry season.   It is during these floods that the dolphins (and other animals that swim in the river) can actually swim through the trees. This flooding is a natural and important process for the environment. The flooding of the forest adds nutrients (new-tree-ents) to the water. The berries, leaves and other parts of plants picked up by the river provide food for small fish. The boto eat a variety of fish - as many as 50 different kinds.   Their favorite seems to be catfish.


The boto river dolphin can be as long as 9 feet (3m) and can weigh as much as 190 lb (95 kg). Of course, the average size is smaller.

Conservation Concerns

Are boto dolphins affected by people? Sure, any animal can be. Have you heard the phrase, "Save the rainforest?" Remember the trees these dolphins can swim through during the floods? Those trees are part of a rain forest. If the trees are all cut down it can cause erosion of the land into the water, and also reduce the amount of nutrients for the animals. Overfishing, getting trapped in fishing gear and the use of hydroelectric dams in the riverways can also threaten boto. Hydroelectric dams provide power for people, but can separate animals from the each other or their food.

NOTE: The boto river dolphin population is listed as Appendix II (threatened) by Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1975 CITES. It is also listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)/World Conservation Union.

What can you do to help river dolphins? Even though you may not live near a river dolphin, you can affect them. Chemicals or trash disposed of improperly can get in to the environment. Try to use less, remember to recycle. There are lots of things we can do.

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