The Growth of ‘Botos Feeding Tourism’, a New Tourism Industry Based on the Boto (Amazon River Dolphin) Inia Geoffrensis in the Amazonas State, Brazil
The Amazon’s reputation and ability to draw tourists is strongly associated with the natural environment and with tourist’s ability to sight and interact with iconic animals. In Brazil, four cases of aggregations of wild boto (Amazon River dolphin; Inia geoffrensis), becoming conditioned to human contact through food provisioning are occurring in Amazonas State, Central Amazon, where tourists can feed, touch and swim with the botos. The feeding of wild dolphins imposes significant risks, both for the dolphins and for the tourists, and these dangers are evident at Novo Airão City, which is the longest established of the four mentioned cases. There are few rules imposed, inadequate infrastructure and no specialized employee training or surveillance. Competitive, aggressive interactions between dolphins, pushing, ramming and biting are common and a number of dangerous interactions between the dolphins and tourists have been observed. It is evident that the establishment of this tourist-dolphin interaction is facilitated by the deliberate feeding of the dolphins and that this activity has become financially lucrative for local people. Despite bringing benefits to the region, the growth of this ‘botos feeding tourism’ activity in the Amazon is currently poorly managed and there is a high risk of injury or fatality if interactions continue to develop without improved and careful management.