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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, August 11, 2003

Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest by Sy Montgomery. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. ISBN: 0-684-84558-X

Yes, there really are pink dolphins. Inia geoffrensis is their scientific name; a species of fresh-water dolphins, they live in the upper reaches of the Amazon river basin. They can range in color from more ordinary shades of gray with pinkish tinges, to pale, rose, or even astonishingly brilliant shades of pink. No one knows the cause of their coloration, or even whether the same individuals remain the same color consistently.

Very little is actually known about the way these elusive creatures live, their habits, behaviors or life cycles. This is because the remoteness of their habitat makes it extremely difficult to track or observe them with any kind of systematic scientific techniques. The author and her companions make sketchy attempts to further the scientific knowledge about these creatures, but for the most part, engage in eco-tourism, with glimpses of the pink dolphins as their goal.

The natives call them “botos” and tell many stories, all variants on the same myth: beware the shape changing boto, which can appear as a handsome young man, or beautiful young woman, and seduce you into following them under the water to the Encantando, or enchanted city, from which you will never return.

The book is entertainingly written, and full of descriptive detail derived from several trips into the Amazon basin. There is a wealth of information on conservation efforts and current efforts to establish ecological preserves. The more recent of these attempt to enlist the native population as natural caretakers and participants in the conservation process, allowing the ordinary people to take their livelihood from the preserve in return for reporting and fending off the potentially more damaging exploitation by large commercial interests.

If you enjoy well-written exotic travelogues, with more than just a touch of eco-tourism thrown in, this book is for you.

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