Franciscana Dolphins grow to an average of 6 feet. They are amongst the smallest of cetaceans.
In order to ensure the continued survival of this species, there is an urgent need for coordinated veterinary conservation efforts.
The Franciscana dolphin or locally “La Plata” dolphin or “toninha” is a small river dolphin inhabiting shallow coastal waters of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. It is the only species of river dolphin that lives in saltwater estuaries rather than freshwater rivers. The female dolphins are actually bigger than the males. The calves when born are very small approximately only 70-75cm in length compared to bottlenose dolphins which are usually around 115cm. The diet of the dolphin is known to consist of at least 76 different prey species with around 83% of their diet being fish with the remainder consisting of mollusks and crustaceans.
The Franciscana dolphin has been documented to produce both whistles and burst pulses with sound recordings obtained as close as 2 meters to shore. Their poor eyesight and low visibility environment have resulted in a high reliance on sonar to find their prey.
Currently, there are four different Franciscana dolphin management areas: Espiritu Santo (ES) Brazil to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo to Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul to Uruguay and, Coast of Buenos Aires and Rio Negro in Argentina.
The NMMF is collaborating with Yaqu Pacha and local experts to develop a coordinated, step-wise conservation medicine action plan to ensure the survival of the Franciscana dolphin while there are still thousands remaining not a few hundred. The plan aims to unify existing South American rescue and rehabilitation efforts, streamline and augment stranding response methods, and improve neonate survivability. The effort will empower local veterinarians and arm them with the knowledge and tools to improve survivability, while the threats existing in their habitat are addressed. Marine mammal veterinary experts suspect that surrogating could increase the survivability of the orphaned calves, and this option will be explored. This project will serve as a blueprint to guide future conservation efforts for other small dolphins and porpoises that are facing similar threats.
Your contribution will directly support the collaborative enhancement of stranding response methods, including standardized stranded dolphin protocols and rehabilitation procedures to inform overall rehabilitation success and ultimately increase survivability.
All photos provided by Fundación Mundo Marino ©
Ashley Barratclough – NMMF, USA
Leo Berninsone – AquaMarina, Argentina
Andrea Cabrera – Fundacion Mundo Marino, Argentina
Lorenzo von Fersen – Nuremberg Zoo, Germany
Forrest Gomez – NMMF, USA
Sergio Heredia – Mundo Marino, Argentina
Sebastian Jimenez – CICMAR Centro de Investigación y Conservación Marina, Uruguay
Cris Kolesnikovas – R3 Animal, Brazil
Juan Pablo Loureiro – Mundo Marino, Argentina
Jenny Meegan – NMMF, USA
Valeria Ruoppolo – Aiuka, Brazil
Cynthia Smith – NMMF, USA
Rae Stone – Dolphin Quest, USA
Jay Sweeney – Dolphin Quest, USA