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Pink River Dolphin Facts

  |   Wildlife & Flora

With so many exotic species living in the Amazon rainforest, most people forget that it’s not only the rainforest canopy and dense undergrowth that is home to wildlife. The Amazon River itself is teeming with rich biodiversity: in the dark waters swim piranhas, crocodiles, manatees, and one of our favorites, the Amazon river dolphin, known to locals as the Boto, or more frequently referred to as the Pink River Dolphin on account of its distinctive coloring.


Despite their apt name, there are actually two other species of river dolphin (the Bolivian and Araguaian) and the oceanic Gray Dolphin (known to locals as the Tucuxi) that also call the Amazon river home. However the pink Boto dolphins are one of the most recognisable, and can often be spotted by passengers embarking on a river cruise, and can even be seen close up if you dare to swim with them! Read on for Pink River Dolphin facts and learn everything you need to know about the famous creatures before heading to the Amazon!


Feeding Pink River Dolphin in Brazil, Desafio Amazon Cruise

Feeding Pink River Dolphin in Brazil, Desafio Amazon Cruise


What exactly are Amazon River dolphins?


The Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) are known as Boto, Bouto, or pink Amazon river dolphins, and are closely related to the newly discovered Araguaian river dolphin and nearby Bolivian river dolphins of the Amazon. They're not too distantly related to their South Asian river dolphin cousins either, namely the subspecies of Ganges river dolphin from the water systems of India, and the Indus river dolphins from Pakistan’s river.



How are they different from other dolphins?


Pink Amazon river dolphins are not the same dolphins you may find in the ocean (like the tucuxi which is not closely related to them genetically) and have quite a few special adaptations to their habitat. In truth, they are actually only distantly related to sea dolphins. Additionally, their appearance is quite distinct. 


Amongst the five living species of river dolphins, pink Amazon river dolphins are the most intelligent, with a brain capacity that is 40% larger than that of humans. They also form the largest population of river dolphins, as the others are almost extinct. 


River Dolphin seen swimming from the Delfin I Amazon cruise.

River Dolphin seen swimming from the Delfin I Amazon cruise.

What do they look like? Are they actually pink?

Most are pink, but not as vibrant as they may appear in some photos on the Internet. Their skin color varies, ranging from light gray to pink to brown. Like humans, they experience something similar to “blushing. When they get excited or surprised, the pink color brightens!

Slightly smaller than sea dolphins, Amazon river dolphins are often between six and eight feet long, and weigh between 185 and 355 pounds when fully grown. 

Their heads look remarkably different, with a very long snout. They have flexible necks unlike other dolphins, which means they can move their heads from left to right. This is the result of evolving to the need to hunt at the bottom of the river. For this same reason, they have pointy teeth as well. 

Swimming in the Amazon River, Peru 

Swimming in the Amazon River, Peru 


What is their behavior like?


Amazon river dolphins are known for being incredibly friendly and social- it’s hard to travel in the Amazon without seeing them!


They eat crabs, catfish, small fish, and even small turtles, which they find at the bottom of the river. They swim towards the top, often looking down, and are great hunters. What also helps is that they can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, allowing them great visibility in shallow waters and floodplains. 


They swim up to 30 kilometers per day, however they move quite slowly as they are always on the lookout for food. They are social animals, expect to see them swimming in pods like other species of dolphins!



Where can they be found?


Amazon river dolphins live in the Amazon River, and can also be found in the Orinoco basins and the upper Madeira River. 



How big is the Amazon river dolphin population?


While there are more Amazon river dolphins than any other river dolphin, they are among the most endangered species of the world’s cetaceans. They have been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a “vulnerable species-threatened” and were recently moved to the “endangered species-threatened” list. 


Pink river dolphins swimming underwater. 

Pink river dolphins swimming underwater. 


What is threatening the species?


Unfortunately, increasing destruction of the Amazon basin has put them at risk, with drastic changes to the home they have lived in for centuries. Rising levels of contaminants such as mercury have caused and increased the number of deaths among them, especially near gold mines as the process involves the use of mercury. 


The increase of traffic in the Amazon river has also altered their habitat, one of the reasons it is so important for visitors to travel with responsible companies. 



Is it easy to see pink Amazon river dolphins in the Amazon?


Yes! These friendly animals love swimming alongside boats on the Amazon river, whether you’re on a large cruise ship or taking a day trip on a little dingy. You’ll notice their pink hue as they breach the surface, though they don’t jump high like gray dolphins (expect to see plenty of them, too!). 


Those brave enough to swim in the Amazon River should take the opportunity- knowledgeable guides know where the Amazon river dolphins like to hang out, and you can swim right amongst the pink dolphins!


Want to see these fascinating pink Amazon river dolphins for yourself? Take an Amazon river cruise and you won’t be able to miss them! No trip to the Amazon is complete without seeing the Amazon river dolphins up close and personal.  Contact Us for more information about booking a trip to the Amazon rainforest. 

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Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises, Galapagos Islands tours, and Southeast Asia cruises. We provide you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and Southeast Asia. As travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure.