Endemic to Venezuela, Brasil, Peru, Guyana, Ecuador and Colombia, pink dolphins are one of the few species of dolphins that live in freshwaters.
Along the rivers of South America, specifically the Amazon basin and the Orinoco river system, this mammal also known as boto, lives and moves along whitewater, blackwater and shallow water rivers.
Wait… They´re pink?
Amazon River dolphins are known (unsurprisingly) for their pink color. The tone and intensity of pink in the species ranges from a subtle pink tone (mostly grey), to rose, to a very bright pink. Curiously, the old males are the ones who have the pinkest skin. Pink dolphins are born light gray, and they turn pink with time.
While there are some theories, there has not been a specific cause that explains their coloring. Some theories state that the color comes from abrasion or impact with other dolphins, and this seems to explain while the males, who fight the most, have the brightest color. Another theory, says that the color could also have a correlation with the color of the mud found in rivers where these dolphins live. Finally, geographic location and their exposure to the sun are also contributors in the variation of pink in dolphins, because exposure changes depending on the clarity of the water in their habitats (clearer water, more exposure, brighter colors).
Traits of a river dolphin
Besides from their color and size, another interesting characteristic of the Amazon River Dolphin is their very flexible neck! Pink dolphins can turn their neck from side to side, in contrast to most species of dolphins who cannot perform this movement. Their pectoral fins are large and shaped like a paddle, which also allows them to maneuver in the river ecosystem. This, along with their ability to move one flipper to paddle forward and the other to push backward are traits that allow them to navigate the harshest waters, facing many obstacles and small spaces.
Did you know? The Amazon River dolphin is the largest freshwater dolphin, with adults reaching a length of almost 3 meters!
What about their eating habits?
With very small eyes, and often found swimming through muddled waters, pink river dolphins use a sonar system to move around and locate food. They feed on healthy fish, some crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, and even small turtles. Its their strong teeth that allow for a wide variety of food options! Besides, while their dorsal fin is small and their head is round, their beak is quite long. This helps them find fish swimming behind trees or enclosed in small spaces.
Pink dolphins make a sound that is out of range for humans to hear, and for a long time, it was believed that these dolphins were oh-so-quiet. They’re actually very loud. And intelligent! They have extraordinarily large brains with 40% more capacity than humans.
Unlike other species, river dolphins travel in small groups ranging from 1-4 individuals.
In the Amazon pink dolphins are magical creatures and important characters in the mythology of the region. Legend says that pink river dolphins could turn into young men at night. As men, they seduced and impregnated women from the local villages, returning to the ocean before dawn. Another story says they can take you away to a magical place underwater!
Because of the myths and legends mentioned above, pink dolphins have always been connected to magic- which has helped with their conservation. According to people of the Amazon, harming them causes bad luck.
However, today the river dolphin is listed as a vulnerable species due to the contamination of main rivers, large bodies of water, and confluent rivers. They depend on healthy fish and the numbers are radically decreasing.
Where can I find them?
We recommend visiting Yasuní or Cuyabeno for a chance to see these weird and mystical creatures. Swimming with pink dolphins is an experience you won’t forget! They’re certainly unique and because they travel in small groups, their sighting is a true wonder.