This is a day we have all been looking forward to. Virginia, the researcher of the Boto (pink dolphin) project has asked the help of the children to observe the dolphins. This is one of the ways they are trying to learn about the dolphins and take care of the population in the Mamiraua reserve. A boat takes us to one of the lakes of the Solimões river (the name of the Amazon river before it reaches Manaus), that the researchers call ‘the shopping centre’. A suitable term because dolphins meet here in groups to find food. As soon as the sound of the motor has stopped, the pink dolphins begin to show up everywhere around us.
If this trend continues in the next fifteen years, the situation will become critical. That’s why I think measures have to be taken now. First of all the deliberate killing of the animals by fishermen, who use them as bait for fishing cat fish, should be stopped. Our experience in Greece teaches that this can be done, if there is an incentive for the fishermen to do so. »
« K.A. » shouts Kai, not to spell his own name, but because he just spotted the dolphin branded KA. He is using his photo camera to spot the animals and then enlarges the pictures on the lcd screen on the back to read the brands. A system that gives him an advantage, because for an untrained eye it is not easy to read the brands on the back of a moving dolphin. « JO or JU, » is the next one we see. « If you’ve spotted JO, this would be the first time we are seeing this dolphin back since a very long time » Virginia tells us. It appears to be JU, who is the mother of a juvenile calf.
Dolphin calves stay with their mother until they’re 3 to 4 years old. That is why you can often spot two of them together. Sometimes an older calf stays with the mother, when a new calf is born. That’s when there are three of them. « There are no larger groups, » says Virginia. « But they come together at places like this « shopping centre ». » We spot a lot more dolphins before we go home, happy with the idea that we have helped a little to learn more about the pink dolphins and convinced that more should be done to preserve this wonderful species.
The morning’s adventure made us even more curious about the pink dolphin, so we have accepted Virginia’s invitation to visit the Boto Vermelho headquarters, not far from the Uakari lodge. ‘Boto Vermelho’ means ‘red dolphin’ in Portuguese ; that is how they call it here. The centre is a floating house, just like our cabins at the Uakari-lodge, a little further up -river.