River dolphin declared Bolivia’s natural heritage
Bolivia’s parliament last month declared that the pink river dolphin or “Bolivian bufeo” (Inia boliviensis) constitutes part of the country’s natural heritage. This declaration, a conservation milestone in Latin America, is crucial for implementing conservation strategies for this Bolivian endemic species and to fulfill one of the goals outlined in the Action Plan for South American River Dolphins, co-authored by WWF.
The natural heritage declaration constitutes a mandate for public institutions located in the Bufeo’s distribution area, to assign funds for its conservation. The resources will be used for the implementation of strategic actions such as protection, monitoring, management, environmental education and the development of sustainable uses like tourism. A census conducted in 2007 by local and international researchers estimated the number of bufeos in the Itenez and Mamoré river basins in Bolivia to be 4,570.
WWF has been working on bufeo conservation since 2006 as part of a South American initiative to estimate river dolphin populations in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. During that process, threats to the animals such as dam construction were identified. WWF warmly welcomes Bolivia’s declaration, but cautions that continued action is required.
“The challenges we face with this acknowledgment to Bolivia’s natural riches are, first, the implementation of a legislation that effectively protects the species, and second, a significant contribution to WWF conservation goals in the Amazon,” said Luis Pabón, WWF Bolivia Country Representative.
WWF’s Global Marine Turtle and Cetacean Manager Aimee Leslie said: “Even though river dolphins are some of the most endangered mammals on Earth, a lot of people are unaware of their existence. Bolivian river dolphins have only recently been considered a separate species from the Amazon River dolphin. Yet they face the increasing threats from dams, fisheries, and pollution. We congratulate the government’s decision and hope that it results in concrete conservation efforts to protect the Bolivian bufeo and its habitat, the Madeira River.”
Further information: Lila Sainz, Coordinator Bi-national Corridor Itenez-Mamoré, WWF Bolivia – firstname.lastname@example.org