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.