140 Endangered River Dolphins Have Died In The Amazon; Up To 400 Dolphins Are Still Trapped Waiting To Be Rescued

Photo: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

At least 140 endangered river dolphins have died and hundreds are still trapped as Lake Tefé in the Amazon rainforest suffers from historic drought and high-water temperatures.

Marine mammal stranding experts from IFAW arrived in Tefé on Sunday at the request of the Mamiraua Institute for Sustainable Development. This trip is made possible in part by a generous contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

“We commend the teams on the ground in Brazil for all they have been doing to understand, adapt, and prevent further suffering of these animals,” said Dr. Sarah Sharp, animal rescue veterinarian at IFAW. “While the situation is dire, we are not without hope that we can help identify solutions that will result in a positive outcome for the surviving dolphin population.”

As water levels continue to lower, temperatures rise, and the pathway to deeper, cooler water is increasingly impassable, the hope is to give these animals the best chance of survival. IFAW has sent Dr. Sharp and animal rescue responder and biologist Kira Kasper to work with local agencies, assess the situation, and bring the kind of fresh thinking and solutions the team is known for.

Amazon and Tucuxi river dolphins are already endangered, and the impacts of climate change likely worsen their fate.

“With the dry season expected to peak in the next two weeks, the worst might be yet to come,” said Kasper. “Even after that time, these animals will continue to be stressed and in need of aid. We are coming prepared with the supplies to hopefully face any challenge we may encounter on the ground.”

The IFAW team will spend at least two weeks in Tefé. They will assess the situation and rescue options for up to 400 Amazon river dolphins and Tucuxi dolphins that are trapped in shallow, overheated waters in Lake Tefé, and are at risk of death.

The two IFAW experts will work with local rescuers to better assess the situation, evaluate possible strategies, and attempt to rescue the dolphins. The team will bring with them specialized equipment, including stretchers, satellite tags, and veterinary supplies

The IFAW team is committed to helping as many dolphins as possible, as every individual animal matters to the survival of the population.

IFAW is a global leader in rescuing marine mammals with its Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team celebrating its 25th anniversary this November. The team is based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.—an area that sees the most frequent live strandings of dolphins than anywhere else in the world. It’s with this 25-year history of research, innovation, and hands-on experience that IFAW has been called upon for consultation and training in over 16 countries.

On March 10th, 2022, the Dutch Postcode Lottery awarded a grant of €1.5 million Euro to support a new IFAW marine conservation and rescue project. The project seeks to optimize post-release survival rates of stranded cetaceans through enhanced global rescue, rehabilitation, and release activities, while also helping to reduce human-caused threats to ensure that marine mammals are released back into safer and more secure habitats.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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