Bolivia Presents the Conservation Plan for the Pink River Dolphin
La Paz, Bolivia - On Wednesday, 27 February 2013, the Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA) of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, presented the "National Plan for the Conservation of the Bolivian River Dolphin - Inia boliviensis 2012-2016".
The Plan is the culmination of a series of events that started in 2006, when genetic studies (Martinez Aguero, et al), showed that the Bolivian pink river dolphin (Bufeo) is a species of river dolphin different from the known one and separated from its closest relative, the Inia geoffrensis. Starting that time, the interest on the species and the actions of the national government increased, particularly the interest of MMAyA and environmental secretariats of Beni and Santa Cruz, research institutions, conservation organizations and local actors.
In 2009 the MMAyA publishes “The Red Book of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna of Bolivia” highlighting progresses in the protection of endangered species in the country. Among the species at risk of extinction, the dolphin appears as Vulnerable (VU), mainly from exposure to changes in the aquatic environment caused by pollution and by the construction of hydroelectric dams.
In 2010, the Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Development and Management, MMAyA subordinated, through the General Directorate of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (DGB-AP) develops the Strategy for the Conservation of Wildlife Threatened Vertebrates from Bolivia. The strategy is a conservation framework for vulnerable and endangered species from The Red Book and identifies action plans for each species as tools for their conservation.
In September 2012 the Plurinational State of Bolivia enacted Law 284, declared the Bufeo as "Natural Heritage of Bolivia", thus continuing existing policies for the conservation of the national natural resources.
Finally, on February 27, it was presented the "National Plan for the Conservation of the Bolivian Bufeo - Inia Boliviensis, 2012-2016". The Plan is the main tool for the implementation of coordinated actions towards the goal established for 2016, which states that "the Bolivian dolphin is adequately protected in well preserved aquatic habitats and living in harmony with humans."
The plan includes a series of actions of different priority levels and indicates the priority intervention areas. The actions to be developed in the coming years should be subject to the Plan and take into account the suggestions made in its five strategic lines: a) protection; b) sustainable use (non-consumptive use); c) knowledge management (research and monitoring); d) communication and environmental education; e) legislation, regulations and public and private institutional management.
WWF Bolivia was a key player in the process leading to the publication of the "National Plan for the Conservation of the Bolivian Bufeo - Inia boliviensis, 2012-2016". The organization participated in promoting, drawing up and developing the planning and implementation strategy of the studies and publications concerning the knowledge and conservation status of the species, as well as the impact that could occur in Bolivia due to the construction of hydroelectric dams in Brazil. Also, WWF helped in coordinating the efforts of various organizations interested in contributing to the conservation of the dolphin. It also participated and supported developing the Action Plan for South American river dolphins.
The Plan is a collaborative effort and direct involvement of the national government, the Ministries of Environment of Beni, Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba, and represents the support of foundations and organizations like CIRA, WCS, Whitley Fund for Nature, Omacha Foundation, Faunagua Association, URLA, Rufford Foundation, Puma, CI, MHNNKM, Estas Vivo Foundation, Inia Editorial, other local actors and WWF.
River dolphins are charismatic species that are integrated into the culture and legends of the Amazon. More than that, the presence of river dolphins is an indicator of the health of aquatic ecosystems, but also of the effect of pollution and changes in river flows created by the expansion of hydroelectric energy.
The efforts that have been made since 2006 by other foundations, organizations and local actors, all supported by WWF, have been made to count and study the species found in the rivers of the Amazon region, particularly in Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador and Colombia. These actions have been crucial for a better understanding of the needs of this species and quality of aquatic ecosystems.
"Bolivia has started a new launch phase of the national conservation plan in the same month when the designation of an important wetland, Moxos Plains, was announced, area that this species depends on. Upcoming conservation plans coming from other countries, collectively, will give a new dimension to the protection of the species, showing the results of an integrated work in hope that the river dolphins will swim freely and safely in the Amazon rivers", said Claudio Maretti, WWF Living Amazon Initiative leader.
"WWF recognizes the efforts of the Bolivian Government in taking giant steps regarding public policies about conservation issues, policies that are arising from the Constitution and are reinforced by the Law of Mother Earth. It is admirable to see how the Law that declares the Bolivian Bufeo as Natural Heritage translates into action, going further and proposing an Action Plan for its effective conservation", said Luis Pabon, Director of WWF Bolivia. "We can see once more how a successful policy of inclusion and cooperation among public and private sectors, civil society and social organizations can give surprising results. WWF is committed to support the efforts made to protect the river dolphin, a symbol of conservation throughout the Amazon".