Scientists have recently discovered a new species of river dolphin in Brazil which has been named the Araguaian Boto. However this rare and special breed is already fast tracked its way onto the endangered species list. How is this new overlooked species already in such danger?
River dolphins themselves are always more vulnerable than their ocean dwelling brethren. They are counted as the rarest and most endangered of all mammals as they are only found in rivers in South America and Asia and are even now under constant human threat. River dolphins require more protection because they often live closer to the domain of man. It was only just a few years ago in 2006 when the Chinese River dolphin was declared officially extinct. The Araguaian Boto is even more susceptible to human threats, however. They only live in the Araguaian River and nowhere else in the world. They have a low genetic diversity and only roughly 1,500 of these unique animals exist.
The Araguaian Boto is a major river in Brazil; however it has managed to dodge major human threats to the habitat of its wildlife due to large portions of it being protected by national parks. This has managed to protect the Boto native to this river. However one dam blocking the river, one major toxic spill into its waters, or even a new trend of using these animals as fishing bait could lead to the utter extinction of this delicate species.
However if the Araguaian River is a major river in Brazil, how have these creatures eluded human discovery for so long? Since this particular Boto is quite big and very often pink in color, they are pretty hard to miss. They have been seen regularly by people who live along the river; however they are often mistaken as the similar looking Amazon River dolphin. However, it was only after scientists conducted a detailed study on their genetics, comparing their genetics to that of the Inia geofrensis that lives in the Amazon Basin in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador as well as the Inia boliviensis that lives in the Madeira Basin in Bolivia. They discovered that this dolphin was indeed a breed of its very own and gave it the scientific name of Inia araguaiansis.
The discovery of the new Araguaian Boto is not only fascinating, as any new creature is, but serves as just another reminder of how little we still know about all the creatures within the rainforests of South America. There are still thousands of areas of rainforest that have never been studied, meaning that there could potentially be thousands or even millions of plants and animals that we still do not know about. Regardless, because of the vulnerability of this new species, conservationists need to renew their efforts and take urgent action to protect this species from further loss. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has been teaming up with partnering organizations through South America in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia to help protect and preserve this brilliant new species.