Depending on Clean Water: Five Freshwater Animals

Learn about five species that live in or near freshwater

While about 70% of the Earth is covered in water, only 3% of that is freshwater. Found in glaciers, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, ponds streams, wetlands and in the ground, fresh water is essential to life. More than 100,000 species rely on freshwater ecosystems, which make up less than 0.01% of the planet’s total surface area.

WWF understands the importance of clean and healthy freshwater ecosystems for a thriving planet. We promote private sector stewardship of the valuable resource and engage with individual businesses to reduce the impacts of their water use. We also help conserve these habitats for the species that call them home.

So who are these animals that live in and around freshwater? Take a look at five such species:

Amazon river dolphin / Bouto (Inia geoffrensis) Endemic to Amazon & Orinocco Rivers South-America

1. Amazon River Dolphin
Amazon River Dolphins—also known as pink river dolphins or botos—swim in the freshwaters of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. But their populations are decreasing as natural freshwater rivers become polluted and altered by dams. WWF conducts river dolphin surveys to determine their status, and researches the impact of dams on their populations.


2. Freshwater Turtle
Freshwater turtles are among the oldest of all living reptiles and have evolved little in the 200 million years they have lived on Earth. Slowly but surely, these ancient creatures will edge towards extinction unless action is taken to address illegal trade and ensure adequate protection is in place. While particular subspecies are impacted by wildlife trade, some experience local die-offs due to habitat destruction and the use of pesticides. WWF works at local, national and international levels to minimize the impacts of development and reduce pollution.


3. Snow Leopard
The high mountains of Asia is home to elusive and magnificent snow leopards. Their fragile habitat is also the birth place of Asia’s most important rivers, bringing life and prosperity to millions. In 2013, WWF played an important role in securing the landmark 12-nation Bishkek Declaration on Snow Leopard Conservation that will include strategies like climate change adaptation measures, limiting changes in land use and implementing flood control programs.


4. Humans
It’s not news that humans depend on freshwater for survival. But more than one billion people lack access to clean water, and 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation. This puts people at risk for diseases that are often deadly. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. And ecosystems around the world will suffer even more. WWF works with partners to advance the science of water conservation. We also work with governments, businesses and local communities to ensure that there are sufficient in-stream flows for people and other freshwater species, and promote methods for sustainable water use.


5. Mekong Giant Freshwater Fish
The world’s biggest freshwater fish lives in the Mekong River. Some reach 16 feet in length and more than half a ton in weight. Now their populations are plummeting as infrastructure development like dams block migration routes and isolate populations. WWF aims to ensure that environmental and social impacts are taken into account in the development of hydropower infrastructure on the Mekong. We also support research and monitoring, including the release of captive-bred adult specimens into the wild.