Last year WDCS answered an emergency call for help from river dolphin experts in Bolivia – Enzo Aliaga-Rossel and Mariana Escobar. They reported on a group of Bolivian river dolphins that had become hopelessly trapped in a section of river cut off from the main river during falling water levels and increasing sedimentation.
Bolivian river dolphins are special and vulnerable – they are the only cetaceans found in Bolivia which is a land-locked country in central South America. WDCS responded immediately to help.
The dolphins were trapped in an area where water levels would continue to fall and fish supplies would dwindle. After some careful research and consideration the only possible solution was to relocate the dolphins back into the main river. This was complicated and risky as it meant catching and moving the dolphins overland.
Our partners, Enzo and Maria went on to organize a team, which carried out an exceptional and pioneering rescue. 20 Bolivian dolphins were safely moved via boat and truck to the main river. The group included juveniles and even a newborn calf which was released with its mother. The dolphins were each treated with a great deal of respect and care. Their bodies were protected from harm using mattresses and also wet sheets to keep the sun of them and their temperature down.
Follow up monitoring in the area is now planned to ensure the long term success of the rescue.
River dolphins do spread out into the flooded forest and use lakes and smaller tributaries which are available to them in the high water season. As the water falls the dolphins naturally make their way back to the deeper main river channels. There is a genuine concern that incidents like this one in Bolivia could become more widespread in the Amazon if climate change impacts on the high and low water cycle. This time the dolphins were very fortunate that there was expertise and an incredible commitment to helping them from Enzo, Maria and WDCS.