Protecting river dolphins worldwide

River dolphins still swim in some of the world's greatest rivers, but all six surviving species are threatened with extinction. This site provides the best global source of knowledge and solutions that can boost efforts to safeguard these iconic animals - and benefit the people and nature that depend on their rivers.

Amazon river dolphin

Yangtze finless porpoise

Irrawaddy dolphin

Tucuxi

Indus river dolphin

Ganges river dolphin

River dolphins worldwide

Explore this section for information on the remaining species of river dolphin that live in eight of the greatest river basins around the world.

Best practices

Explore this section to learn about ways in which river dolphins are being studied and protected around the world.

Resources

A searchable table of literature allows you to search and filter around 600 documents, ranging from peer-reviewed scientific journal articles to government reports and action plans.

The global knowledge base for river dolphins

River dolphins are extraordinary. They are the apex predators in some of the world’s greatest river systems. Yet they remain largely unknown. Undervalued and overlooked, they are still holding on even though the four Asian species live in some of the most densely populated parts of the planet – and all six species live in rivers that face a barrage of threats. But they are only just holding on.

All six river dolphin species in the world are classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A seventh river dolphin species, the Chinese river dolphin or baiji, was declared extinct in 2007, reminding us of how precarious these dolphins’ survival can be. River fragmentation due to water infrastructure divides populations; dolphins become entangled and killed in fishing gear; and water pollution affects the animals’ health.

River dolphins are important indicators of the health of rivers that are also the lifeblood of huge economies and hundreds of millions of people. Where freshwater dolphin populations are thriving, it is likely that the overall river systems are flourishing – as well as the communities, companies and countless other wildlife species that depend on them: for fish, for water for drinking and irrigation, and for transport.

This website provides information on all the different river dolphin species, the threats they face, and best practices gathered from around the world to help tackle those threats. We hope that this will serve as a resource and a source of inspiration for anyone living or working in river basins where river dolphins live – as well as people around the world – so that together we can help to ensure the survival of these iconic species.

The wide ranging resources available here are founded on a thorough assessment of best practices for river dolphin conservation and management, drawing information and insights from the wealth of resources and approaches being used, and drawing on the best available peer reviewed science and research on river dolphins globally.  The detailed results of that assessment, including a wide range of inspiring case studies, can be found in the 2021 report:
River dolphin conservation and management: best practices from around the world“.

River dolphins worldwide

This interactive map allows users to explore the seven major river basins that host freshwater dolphin populations. Click on any of the river basin names below to reveal a pop-up window with quick links to information about the river dolphin species found in that basin, as well as selected resources that can be used in conservation efforts for each featured basin and species. For more detailed information on resources, visit the Downloadable Resources or Scientific Literature sections of this site.

Species Map

Latest updates

6 April 2021

China boosts protection of Yangtze finless porpoise

In a major boost for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, the Chinese government upgraded it to national first level protected species – the country’s highest protection for wild animals.

6 April 2021

Endangered South Asian river dolphins are two different species, scientists find

After two decades of research, scientists have recognised the Endangered Indus and Ganges river dolphins as separate species.