What are the threats?
All river dolphin species are under threat globally and this has only recently begun to be taken seriously following confirmation that the Yangtze River or Baiji dolphin is now functionally extinct. This was the first large vertebrate in half a century to be driven to extinction as a result of anthropogenic activities (unsustainable shipping, illegal fishing, habitat encroachment, polluted waterways).
The main threat to the Amazon River dolphin is from commercial fishing where they are either killed by fishermen as a perceived competitive threat or used as bait for the lucrative catfish industry which feed on their carcasses. Roughly 1,500 botos are killed each year as bait, with a single dolphin carcass helping to produce 550 kilograms (approx. 1,212 pounds) of catfish worth £30 per kilogram. This equates to roughly £300 (approx. $464) in two nights which is more than double the national minimum wage in the region, highlighting the huge demand for these river dolphins.
Unfortunately fishing pressures are not the only threat currently impacting the dolphins. Many are injured or killed by boat strikes of from propellers as they are naturally inquisitive and attracted to noise; this also makes them very easy to hunt by fishermen. Rising mercury levels in the local rivers have led to contamination of prey and the construction of dams is reducing the food available as fish are unable to swim upstream.