River dolphins are the most endangered type of dolphin living on the planet today. Three different species of river dolphins are currently classed as ‘critically endangered’. This means that unless drastic action is taken to modify the way in which their habitats and food sources are being affected by human activity, they will soon become extinct. River dolphins are highly adapted in order to thrive in their muddy river environment. They have extremely poor eyesight and some species are almost blind. Instead, they navigate entirely using their heightened skill of echo-location. They are extremely flexible so that they can manoeuvre through tight spots and around fallen trees in the flooded months. All of these adaptations mean that they are incredibly capable of finding food, shelter and safe places to breed within the murky rivers of Asia and Latin America, but that they are now restricted to living in this specific freshwater environment. If their habitat is threatened by fishing and industrialization, then there is nowhere that they can go to escape the looming possibility of extinction.
The Bajii dolphin is a species which used to live in the Yellow River until it was declared extinct roughly 10 years ago. This species serves as a solemn indicator of the future of other river dolphins if nothing is done to improve the way in which their environment is affected by increasing levels of human interference.
In order to protect more dolphin species from becoming endangered, it is important to act early. One of the major threats to dolphins is the fishing industry, and tuna fishing in particular. Dolphins and tuna follow similar routes throughout the sea all over the world, and can grow to a similar size. This means that dolphins regularly get caught in the nets of the fishermen by accident and once they do, there is no real hope of escape.
Encouraging people to only buy tuna with the ‘dolphin friendly’ symbol on the can is one of the best ways to ensure that this stops happening in the future.
Another key factor which is contributing to more and more endangered dolphins is pollution. The seas and rivers of the world are becoming more and more contaminated by human and industrial waste. Even if the dolphins adapt to survive in these conditions, the pollution is killing off many of the species which dolphins rely on as food. Such a delicate ecosystem cannot withstand the level of pollution to which it is currently being exposed and is causing more and more species to become endangered.