Bolivia’s armed forces have been given a new job not usually awarded to the military.
President Evo Morales has ordered them to add protecting the Amazon’s pink dolphin to their list of duties. Morales signed a new law protecting the animals, the country’s only freshwater mammal, BBC News reports.
The legislation forbids catching them and declares the dolphin a national treasure, BBC News said. Its official name is Inia boliviensis, a subspecies of the pink river dolphins found elsewhere in South America, which is Inia geoffrensis.
The odd-looking dolphins are known for their chubby cheeks, the WDCS said. They tend to swim upside-down, perhaps because the cheeks obstruct their vision. They swim slowly and travel in pairs or alone, except in the dry season, when they cluster into groups of 10 or 15.
The army’s might can only go so far in protecting the species, as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) points out. The main threat against them besides overfishing is environmental: contamination from mercury used in mining gold, and habitat destruction via erosion in the Amazon, the WDCS said on its website.
“We congratulate President Morales on taking these steps,” said WDCS lead river dolphin conservationist Alison Wood in a statement. “He is right to be proud of Bolivia’s very own precious river dolphin and be concerned about its future.”
Wood went on to say that the dolphins face other threats as well, and urged the Bolivian government to tackle issues such as dam construction in northern Bolivia.