Amazon River Dolphin

"The Pink Amazon Princess" by Kness (watercolor, permanent ink, and fountain pen)

The amazon dolphin, and the other fresh water dolphins are fascinating, but because they’re less cute - or some people think them less cute - they’re not as much advertised as an endangered species as the usual great dolphin or common dolphin that you can see almost everywhere. I tend to love the unspoken for, the “ugly” and the less known animals, so the Amazon dolphin was a match. It’s a really interesting animal that adapted a lot to fit in its habitat, it’s a God for some of the Amazon people.
— Kness

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The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the pink river dolphin or boto, lives only in freshwater. It is found throughout the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. It can be found in lowland fast-flowing, whitewater rivers, clearwater or blackwater rivers as well as lakes and seasonally-flooded forests.

Family life

While they are mostly pink, Amazon river dolphins have various colored skins, which can be light gray, pink, or brown. Generally solitary creatures, they can be seen in pairs during mating season. If the area has a particularly large number of prey, however, groups of 10 to 15 can be found together. They communicate in a variety of ways, all nonverbal. These forms of communication include the way the dolphins posture their bodies, clapping their jaws, blowing bubbles and caressing their fins with clicks and whistles.


In the wild, Amazon river dolphins live an average of 30 years. In human care, unfortunately, these dolphins do not live long, due to their difficulty adapting to captivity.

Hunting Habits/Diet

Pink dolphins eat crabs, catfish, small river fish and even small turtles. Because their cervical vertebrae are not fused, they can move their head up to 180 degrees, which is helpful for hunting in shallow waters and floodplains. They also rely on an internal sonar system to maneuver under water and find food due to their poor vision.


The Amazon river dolphin population is in the tens of thousands, but may be in rapid decline. Experts believe almost 3,000 dolphins are killed each year. Their IUCN status as of 2008 was Vulnerable, but reassessed as Data Deficient in 2012 due to limited information regarding their population trends.

Fun Fact

Amazon pink dolphins are considered the most intelligent dolphins with a brain capacity that is 40% larger than a human’s. It is also the largest river dolphin species in the world.

Why are They Endangered

The Amazon river dolphin faces many human threats that jeopardize its survival. Loss of habitat due to the creation of dams, accidental drowning in fishing gear and intentional death at the hands of fishermen are all potentially devastating to the already declining population. Fatal levels of mercury have also contributed to their decreasing numbers. Increasing boat traffic in the Amazon River also poses a problem, as the dolphins will approach out of curiosity and be injured, sometimes fatally, by propellers.


Vulnerable in some areas