In the Amazon, the virus has become stigmatized, and many of those who have it deny it. In Porto Velho, images of cute, smiling botos are ubiquitous on murals and in graffiti. In the past, the boto’s mythic powers protected it. The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the pink river dolphin or boto, lives only in freshwater. Scientists didn’t begin to systematically study the behavior or population dynamics of botos outside captivity until the early 1990s. But even with better data recording practices and an improved data set, Oliveira says that the river dolphins are still at great risk from a broad range of threats. The actual decline may be even steeper, since dolphin killings are less likely near the protected waters of the reserve than in other parts of the Amazon, and more dolphins might be attracted to its comparatively peaceful waters. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, desperate to keep the country’s economy going, has posted tweets equating the virus to the flu and endorsing unproven treatments. “For so many reasons, it’s a species we need to conserve and save,” he says. “We need better information on fishing practices. When I ask specifics, such as who these people are or how to reach them, the stories quickly fall apart. One family tells us that they rely mostly on welfare, which they supplement by selling any produce they grow or fish they catch to the passenger and cargo boats that float by. But we never do see a pink dolphin, and we head back to the Porto Velho docks. While the boto legend lingers, the actual animals are dying out. Like other river dolphins, the boto communicates with variable whistle tones. There is another myth about the Amazon river dolphin. During highwater periods they penetrate deep into the rainforest using echolocation to search murky pools amid submerged tree roots for prey including dozens of fish species, turtles and freshwater crabs. Its fossils were discovered near Piña, Panama. “If we don’t know where the river dolphins are, we can’t say how bad [the threat] is. The boto myths were used to justify restrictions on women’s movements and behavior; sometimes, women themselves used the stories as a shield. “If we don’t know where the river dolphins are, we can’t say how bad [the threat] is. In the Mamirauá Reserve in northern Brazil, where Projeto Boto counts the boto population each year, numbers appeared to be dropping by half about every decade. In January 2015, under the government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, that chronic criminal behavior led to the introduction of a five-year moratorium on catching piracatinga in order to better protect the dolphins. Banning Plastic Bags Is An Intuitive Environmental Solution That Falls Short — Here’s Why. How can these dolphins have no classification, you ask? Daughters of the Dolphin, Never Again has since changed the logo. “We’re trying to show the dark side behind it. Pablo Cardoso Maia, a psychologist at one such center in Pará, says the boto myth and this societal epidemic go hand in hand: “Just as we chase cases of violence against women, we’re always tracking the myth.”. Updated at 12:12 p.m. But nothing has happened since, and the peak fishing season is due to begin in July. * Pará’s economy revolves around mining and agricultural resources such as acai and Brazil nuts, and large tracts of rain forest have been razed for cattle ranching and soy farming. The river dolphin is not extinct. Once your account is created, you'll be logged-in to this account. Another neighbor maintained that she was tricked into consorting with a boto because it was dressed up as her husband, and she hadn’t thought to check if it had a blowhole under its hat. Juracilda Carvalho Santos, 39, who also grew up on the riverside but now lives in Breves, found out about the psychological origins of the boto legend when she went to college, and the revelation made her question many of the beliefs she grew up with. Mongabay is the original publisher of this article. And more fish are being caught in the Amazon basin than ever before. “I believe [the lack of a moratorium] could make them extinct,” warns Dr. Vera da Silva, a researcher for INPA, the Amazon research institute, who has been studying Amazonia’s dolphins for more than 30 years. Da Silva reports that in November 2019 she met with officials from the Secretariat of Production of the State of Amazonas (SEPROR), to discuss the extension of the moratorium in Amazonas. After the United States, Brazil has recorded more COVID-19-related deaths than any other country in the world, and remote parts of the Amazon have been hit especially hard. WWF has been innovating — utilizing drones to accomplish the difficult job of making improved population estimates, flying 2.5 kilometer strips of river to record footage. It also sparked a national conversation about sexual violence, which challenged common societal assumptions about women’s responsibility for their own abuse. If communities are involved in conservation, the dolphins will be safer.”. It’s about the things we don’t talk about.”. They are also commonly found in the streams and main rivers of the Orinoco river systems; the upper Madeira river in South America and Pearl river of Hong Kong. In her hometown, she says, she knew someone who got pregnant and whose husband insisted the child was not his. Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development. Occupying the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, which cut across the northern half of the South American continent, these freshwater mammals were historically abundant, and are protected today by Brazilian law; it is illegal to kill them. An estimated population in the low tens of thousands is thought to exist in the wild, though counting the animals accurately in the Amazon’s murky streams is challenging. Every once in a while, something pierces the surface—a large splash or a bright flash of color—and we point excitedly, hoping to confirm a sighting of a pink river dolphin, also called a boto. It is said that to kill one is bad luck. “[The ribeirinhos] all have TVs. Males and females are both said to have the ability to morph at will into either a handsome man, or beautiful woman respectively, in order to seduce villagers in the dark of night. He points to the right, convinced he sees two huddled together, and steers us toward the spot. While those fears are fading, the species is still widely resented. Indigenous beliefs hold that the river dolphin — which transforms from grey to pink as it ages — is a magical creature. “Not all the objectives of the moratorium were fulfilled, therefore the moratorium must be extended,” she explained. This article by Peter Yeung was first published on on 16 June 2020. All Rights Dos Santos, who is 41, has a seventh-grade education. Peter Yeung is a freelance journalist that has reported from…. At a community called Antonio Lemos, about five kilometers further north, we speak to a community health worker named Maria de Nazaré dos Santos, who says she believes in the boto myth. Maia calls it a cool day, even though temperatures reach into the 90s and the humidity is high. “It’s not a fight between the two. “We used the image of the boto to say we must stop hiding,” Anne Cleyanne Alves, the group’s president, says. “Even though I know it’s a lie, I’m still scared of the boto,” she says. Before leaving Breves, I stop at a fish market, where, everyone tells me, I can for sure see a boto. Mateus and Pinto are members of a group called Filhas do Boto Nunca Mais—Daughters of the Dolphin, Never Again—which combats sexual violence in Porto Velho and nearby river communities. © 2020 Medius Ventures LLC. Some consider them pests. Pink dolphins, also popularly known as Boto, Bouto or Amazon river dolphin are a type of dolphin species living in the Amazon rainforest with bodies well adapted to the Amazon river.


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