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


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.


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

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23 November 2023

Cracking the Code: Understanding Biodiversity Loss and Its Impact on Amazon River Dolphin

By: Assaf Levy, BioDB In the vast expanse of the Amazon rainforest, where the vibrant tapestry of life intertwines with the meandering rivers, a silent crisis unfolds beneath the surface—the dwindling population of Amazon river dolphins. These iconic creatures, also known as pink river dolphins, are not just casualties of a localized environmental issue; their […]

24 October 2023

Global Declaration for River Dolphins

River dolphin country governments in Asia and South America are taking a stand by signing the landmark Global Declaration for River Dolphins.  This hugely significant moment will help save river dolphins by urgently scaling up solutions, such as sustainable fisheries, better managed protected areas, reduced pollution, and ecotourism.  It will also help safeguard the future […]

5 April 2023

No safe Havens for river dolphins – new study launched

Are protected areas that host river dolphins actually protecting these species? Unfortunately not. On 23rd of March 2023,  during the UN Water Conference, WWF launched a global analysis, showing there is much room for improvement. With a quick assessment (‘CA|RDS Lite’), one-third of all river dolphin PA’s was scanned, scoring on average a 52% on […]

22 October 2022

30 experts publish global river dolphin threat analysis and conservation priorities

A new article by 30 top researchers, investigates anthropogenic impacts on river cetaceans: an exhaustive review of 280 peer-reviewed papers and grey literature reports (1998-2020) to examine the current status of knowledge regarding these cetaceans and their conservation. We aimed to better understand the scale of threats they face, and to identify and propose priority […]

20 October 2022

International conference to tackle fisheries threats to river dolphins in Asia

WWF-Pakistan hosts international conference to tackle fisheries threats to river dolphins in Asia (  

(c) WWF-Cambodia

16 February 2022

Goodbye, Lone George

He was the last one. And now he’s gone. This morning, I woke up to the sad news that the last known river dolphin in Laos has died. I called him Lone George. Although I did not even know he was a male at the time, I really felt for him ever since his companions […]

16 November 2021

Electronic pingers protect river dolphins and benefit communities

With all six river dolphin species threatened with extinction globally, an innovative project in Indonesia has proven that electronic pingers help to deter river dolphins from approaching too close to fishing nets, protecting the animals from potentially fatal entanglements – and benefiting local fishers. Working with local communities, electronic pingers were attached to fishing nets […]

30 September 2021

International approval for South American conservation plan for river dolphins

Global body endorses action plan to safeguard rivers dolphins in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru In a major boost for river dolphins in South America, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has approved a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for river dolphins in the Amazon, Orinoco, Tocantins and Araguaia rivers that was developed by Brazil, Colombia, […]

7 November 2021

Blog: discovering two species of river dolphin in South Asia

By Gill Braulik, Research Fellow in the Sea Mammal Research Unit of the University of St. Andrews, UK Twenty years ago, I set off on a quest to understand whether the endangered dolphins in the Ganges river, and the dolphins in the Indus river were two separate species. It was a mission that took me […]