Number, seasonal movements, and residency characteristics of river dolphins in an Amazonian floodplain lake system
The size and structure of a community of Amazon river dolphins or botos, Inia geoffrensis (de Blainville, 1817), was investigated using boat surveys and long-term observations of recognisable animals. Year-round, some 260 botos occurred in or near the 225-km(2) Mamiraua varzea floodplain lake system, of which half were permanent residents by our definition. Seasonal variation in water levels influenced distribution between habitats but not the overall number of botos. Ninety percent of marked botos encountered within the lake system were permanent residents. There appeared to be a cline in site fidelity between those that always live in or near the system and those that visit at intervals of years. We estimated that 270 botos were "significant users" of the lake system (i.e., occurred within it for sufficient periods in a year to be observed at least once) and that many others visited for short periods. Individuals moved many tens to hundreds of kilometres along the rivers, but there was no broad-scale seasonal migration. The boto population of the central Amazon, at least, may be structured on the basis of floodplain lake systems, with extensive animal movement between systems. We estimate that 13 000 botos occur in the 11240 km(2) Mamirauna Sustainable Development Reserve, which covers an estimated 11%-18% of varzea habitat in Brazil.