- Issue: Spring 2018
- Photographer: Jaime Rojo
PUERTO NARIÑO, COLOMBIA :: 3 NOVEMBER 2017
According to WWF’s Living Planet Report, the average abundance of freshwater species populations declined by 81% between 1970 and 2012. This startling statistic underscores the desperate situation faced by freshwater species—including the charismatic and iconic river dolphin. In response, WWF offices in Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia coordinated a tri-national effort to tag and study river dolphins, applying satellite GPS technology to the task for the first time. The project is part of a broader scientific attempt to understand river dolphin health and migratory patterns, which is an early step in creating a regional approach to collecting and sharing data about river dolphins across Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. These findings will inform plans to secure the landscapes and rivers these dolphins need to survive.
For five days, a research team explored the waters in and around the Tarapoto lakes, near the Peruvian border, hoping to add data about Colombia’s river dolphins to the project. Unexpectedly high waters gave the dolphins a wider roaming range than usual, and the crew captured only one dolphin during the expedition. Here’s what it took to get the job done.