The South American River Dolphin Protected Area Network (SARDPAN)
The South American River Dolphin Protected Area Network (SARDPAN) is a novel effort to bring together local researchers and indigenous communities to develop the first network of proposed and existing protected areas for river dolphins. Spearheaded by WDCS and local South American conservation groups such as Fundacion Omacha, SARDPAN features the four species of river dolphins found across the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America. These vast river basins extend from the Atlantic to the Andes mountain chain that extends along the west coast of South America. Besides the Brazilian Amazon, there are also substantial numbers of river dolphins in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. In the back of everyone's mind is the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji, in China. The urgency now is to make sure more river dolphins don't become extinct.
Threats to river dolphins in South America
Threats to the dolphins include:
- illegal hunting of river dolphins in unsustainable numbers in Brazil, Colombia and Peru for use as bait (the dolphin bait is used to attract the scavenger fish or mota Calophysus macropterus, which is sold commercially for human consumption in cities throughout Colombia);
- deliberate killing of dolphins by fishermen as pests or competitors for fish;
- logging of the Amazon basin affects quality of watersheds;
- boat traffic with attendant pollution including chance of oil spills; and
- proposed large scale water engineering projects including hydroelectric dam construction. For example, the Bolivian Amazon river dolphin Inia boliviensis has an overall low population size compared to Inia geoffrensis as it occurs only in Bolivia and is separated geographically from other river dolphin populations by the Mamore-Madeira rapids and waterfalls (on border of Brazil and Bolivia). Brazil plans to build hydropower stations in Jirau and San Antonia on the Madeira River which will disrupt habitat and pose a major threat to the Bolivian river dolphin downstream.
A challenge for conservation
The South American River Dolphin Protected Area Network currently consists of 9 existing and 3 proposed protected areas in 6 countries in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America. More will be added as research continues. The project seeks to develop comprehensive management plans to protect these species across national borders and throughout their range.
Indeed, river dolphins present special challenges for conservation because of the inland location of their habitat and susceptibility to pressures placed on rivers from dams, pollution, boat traffic and fishing. but WDCS believes that substantial conservation advances may be possible through the formation of this support network.
For more information about the South American River Dolphin Protected Area Network, please go to www.cetaceanhabitat.org.
Please sign WDCS's Global Petition for Marine Protected Areas and put pressure on your government representatives.
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