In Ecuador there are at least 147 species of this dolphin, which is the largest pink river dolphin in the world. Despite this, Ecuador has one of the lowest populations of this animal in the region.
It lives in the Amazonian rivers, especially in the Cuyabeno Reserve. Its body is totally flexible to avoid the obstacles of the current. Despite its color, it can be lead-colored. Its average life span is 40 years.
Its pinkish color is its most particular feature compared to its saltwater relatives, but it also differs in having smaller eyes, shorter fins and a much longer and more pointed snout to obtain food from the murky waters and muddy riverbed.
The pink dolphin, known locally as the bufeo, is the largest of the river dolphin species, with a maximum length of 2.5 meters. Although called pink dolphins, adults can be pink or gray and newborns are always gray. The female gives birth to a single calf after 11 to 12 months of gestation, and the calf stays with its mother until it is 2 years old. It feeds on more than 50 different species of fish, sometimes eating crabs, mollusks and freshwater turtles.
It is the only dolphin with a flexible neck, which can move from side to side, an advantage when navigating through trees in flooded forests. The pink river dolphin is a solitary species, usually found with mothers and calves, or at most in groups of up to 4 individuals. It is widely distributed in the Orinoco and Amazon river systems of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.
It is also known as Amazon dolphin, bufeo, tonina and boto. It easily interacts with humans, especially with those who travel in small boats. It is believed that they can live about 30 years.
Throughout its life it is usually solitary and is rarely seen in groups; however, periodically it appears in greater numbers to feed or mate. It stands out for being a very playful and curious animal.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in Ecuador it has a wide distribution and is found in the main rivers and some lake systems of the Amazon region, below 400 m altitude.
Probably, the first documented record of the presence of Inia geoffrensis in the country was in 1854 and corresponds to the Payamino River, near its confluence with the Napo. There are reports of its presence in the Napo, Tigre, Pastaza and Santiago rivers.
Some of the dangers faced by this precious animal is that this dolphin is captured to use some of its parts for commercialization. To this is added the involuntary fishing, the degradation of its habitat, the expansion of populated areas, deforestation, the expansion of agriculture and cattle raising.
It is the largest of the river dolphins, with a length of 2.5 to 3 m and a weight of 110 to 200 kg. It does not swim fast, but is very agile to move among the trees in the areas where it lives. It lives in the rivers and lagoons of the Amazon and Orinoco, below 400 meters above sea level. They are distributed in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Guyana.
They are great hunters, their diet usually includes up to 50 different types of fish, including crayfish.
“We have also recorded that they are hunted because there is a belief, folklore, ancient legend that dolphins transform into other things and are afraid of them, this is something more cultural. Also the pink dolphin is fighting with fishermen for prey and that is why they are attacked until they are killed.”
There are numerous myths spread practically throughout the Amazon that have the buffalo as a protagonist, capable of acquiring human appearance, either male or female, and the most popular is that it transforms into a “gringo” man, pink-skinned, robust and outstandingly handsome.
With this appearance he bursts into the verbenas of the riverside communities to seduce the most beautiful woman of the place and, with his irresistible personality and his gifts for dancing, the myth tells that the woman is bewitched by this supernatural being that, in the middle of the hubbub and the music, takes her to the river.
This fame as an inveterate seducer is its undoing, as it becomes the object of hunting to obtain its butter and make “pusanga”, which is sold without any scientific rigor as an almost magical ointment to make the person you like fall at your feet, while in Brazil it is also hunted to be used as bait for fishing.
In addition to hunting, there is the environmental pollution of rivers, especially that caused by oil spills and illegal mining, which discharges waste such as mercury into the water. “The human threat is the most latent threat”.
According to legend, the pink dolphin was a young indigenous warrior. But one of the gods envied his masculine attributes and decided to transform him into a dolphin, condemning him to live in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon. In June, a month of festivities, dances, fires and music, when the indigenous people celebrate the birthdays of their saints and the men are busy having fun, the pink dolphins come out of the river to seduce young women. The Indians tell that this has happened several times. The pink dolphin turned into a handsome man and an insatiable lover approaches the shore. He is dressed in white and his head is covered by a straw hat. Under the hat he hides the only remaining feature of the dolphin, the hole in his head through which he breathes. That is why when a man in a hat shows up during the month of June, the inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest ask him to remove his hat to make sure he is not a dolphin.
The attractive dolphin dances perfectly and no woman can run away before his charms. He chooses the prettiest girl, compliments her, dances with her and at the end proposes a walk by the river. The next day, the woman remembers nothing of what had happened that night. After a while she realizes that she is pregnant. This state of affairs does not provoke any sensation among the indigenous people who know that the only guilty party is the pink dolphin and the poor innocent woman let herself be carried away by the beautiful words and the attractive physique. Indigenous women and Amazon dolphins prefer not to get too close. In the Amazon basin, the natives are very superstitious and call children born with spina bifida botos. They also believe that if they harm the pink dolphins, their children will be born with the disease. According to local legend, young women on the days of their menstruation and on the nights of the full moon who enter the waters of the Amazon River or go down the river in a canoe, can expect a visit from the dolphin who will come to impregnate them. For this reason, pink dolphins are credited with the paternity of all fatherless children in the region. There have even been cases of children registered in the notary’s office as dolphin’s children. For this reason, the indigenous men of the region sometimes try to kill these animals, because they do not want them to impregnate their wives.