The world of social media has erupted in outrage after video and photos surfaced of tourists dragging a baby dolphin out of the ocean.
The La Plata dolphin weighs up to 50 kg (110 lb), and lives for up to 20 years. The gestation period is around 10–11 months and juveniles take just a few years to mature. Females may be giving birth by the age of five.
Behavior and feeding
The animal is very inconspicuous—it moves very smoothly and slowly—and can be difficult to spot unless estuary conditions are very calm. It will commonly swim alone or in small groups. Exceptional groups as large as 15 have been seen. La Plata dolphins are bottom feeders and gut inspections have revealed they eat at least 24 different species of fish, depending on which species are most common. They will also take octopus, squid and shrimp. They are, in turn, hunted by killer whales (orcas) and several species of sharks.
Range and habitat
The La Plata dolphin is found in the coastal Atlantic waters of southeastern South America, including the Río de la Plata estuary. Its distribution ranges from the Tropic of Capricorn near Ubatuba, Brazil, south to Península Valdés, Argentina. It is the only member of the river dolphin group that actually lives in the ocean and saltwater estuaries, rather than freshwater. Although some members of the species do spend portions of their lives outside of river systems, many individuals live their entire lives within rivers, never venturing into the ocean proper.
The La Plata dolphin is affected by factors like habitat destruction and water pollution. Plastic debris and synthetic material has been found in the stomach contents of these animals. More research is necessary to determine whether or not these factors negatively affect the health of La Plata dolphins.