Fishermen who once angled for rare pink river dolphins are working with researchers in Bolivia’s Amazon jungle in a high-tech bid to assure the species’ survival and better understand their needs.
Scientists with global environmental group WWF and Bolivian NGO Faunagua recently tagged four freshwater dolphins in the Ichilo river using satellite technology that allows fishermen to use a mobile phone app to report their locations.
Despite the iconic status of river dolphins, little is known about their population and habitats. Data from the tagging program will help provide vital information about what dolphins eat, how far they migrate and the threats they face in the Amazon.
It gives fishermen a new perspective on a species that has long been their prey, said Lila Sainz, head of Bolivia’s WWF.
“Everything that affects dolphins affects the humans that use those resources,” said Sainz. “So, if dolphins are doing well, people are doing well.”
Bolivia’s vast Amazon rainforest is a critical habitat for a wide range of species, all of which are threatened by deforestation, upriver dams, forest fires and development.
The tagging programme is just one way the WWF hopes to better protect this dolphin species against extinction.