This illegal, immoral and cruel killing spree has been drastically affecting pink river dolphin populations in the Amazon. There are confirmed cases of hunters specialized in killing these dolphins catching over 20 animals per sortie. These poachers sell their meat to riverside community members, who use it to fish.
These dolphins are being killed to be used as bait for a necrophage catfish locally known in Brazil as piracatinga, or urubú-d’água (water vulture). However, this fish is sold under false names such as douradinha in Brazil and capaz in Colombia, conning consumers into buying a product they don’t know. Tons of piracatinga are captured annually using pink dolphin meat. Consequently, the volume of this fish found in Brazilian markets has been increasing exponentially in the past few years.
The pink river dolphin, or boto (Inia geoffrensis) is the largest river dolphin in the world and can live up to 50 years. Despite their longevity, they have low reproductive rates and have a long period in which they care for their young. This makes its existence fragile when confronted with the constant threat of poachers.
The boto is closely related to marine dolphins and is totally adapted to the Amazonian environment. Not only is it essential for the ecological balance in the Amazon river basin, it is also an important character in regional folklore.
If these fishing practices continue, it is estimated that over 2500 pink dolphins will be killed per year in some regions of the Amazon, meaning this species may disappear in the not-so-distant future.
It is estimated that in some regions of the Amazon, 2500 botos have been killed every year. These numbers and the situation are as alarming as when the dolphin killing spree in Japan that caused so much uproar occurred.
The plight of the river dolphin is even more serious given their already-dwindling numbers. An increase in boat traffic has hit the population hard, as the naturally inquisitive creatures draw close to boats and are injured by the propellers.
Rising mercury levels in the water are also thought to have contributed to their decline, especially near gold mines where mercury is used as part of the mining process. Some of the creatures also die after becoming entangled in fishing lines.
But their almost mythical reputation in the Amazon region makes their slaughter even harder to understand.
Legend has it that the dolphin, known as a Boto, turns into a handsome man by night who seduces girls, impregnates them, and then returns to the river in the morning. Local folklore says that it is bad luck to kill a dolphin, and that if a person makes eye-contact with one of the animals, they will have nightmares for life.