Pink dolphins aren’t just a beautiful cartoon fantasy splashing in a rainbow river in outer space on your fourth-grade Trapper Keeper. They actually exist in real life, though they’re not easy to find. There are only a few places on the globe where you can spot them. Click through to get the scoop on pink dolphins.
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THERE ARE TWO SPECIES OF PINK DOLPHIN
The first kind of pink dolphin is the Amazon river dolphin, which is found in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. The Chinese white dolphin lives primarily in the Pearl River estuary off the coast of China and Hong Kong.
THE OTHER WAY FOR A DOLPHIN TO BE PINK IS THROUGH ALBINISM
Other than Amazon river dolphins and Chinese white dolphins, some pink dolphins are actually very rare albinos. Albino dolphins can appear pink instead of white due to the blood vessels under their skin. Albinism is extremely uncommon in dolphins. There have been only 14 recorded sightings of albino bottlenose dolphins since 1962.
AMAZON RIVER DOLPHINS ARE THE WORLD’S LARGEST FRESHWATER DOLPHINS
Amazon river dolphins can grow to measure 8.5 feet long and weigh 400 pounds. They also move slowly, swimming between 1.5 and 3 mph, although they can “sprint” at about 14 mph.
SCIENTISTS AREN’T SURE WHAT GIVES PINK DOLPHINS THEIR COLOR
Different hypotheses suggest that the dolphin’s unusual coloring is due to diet, or perhaps to thin skin that shows blood capillaries near the surface. One thing seems to be certain: Sun exposure determines how pink a pink dolphin is. Dolphins that live in darker waters and get less sun tend to have more pink coloring with less gray mottling.
A LOCALLY FAMOUS PINK DOLPHIN LIVES IN A LOUISIANA LAKE
Pinky the albino dolphin was first spotted in 2007 as a calf swimming with its normal-colored mother in the Calcasieu Ship Channel. When charter boat captain Erik Rue saw and photographed Pinky in 2009, he described the dolphin as "absolutely stunningly pink." Captain Rue added, "It's the same color throughout the whole body and it looks like it just came out of a paint booth."
CHINESE WHITE DOLPHINS ARE ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION
Chinese white dolphins exist in a very limited habitat, and their already small numbers are dwindling fast. "We've seen alarming decline in the last decade — 158 dolphins in 2003, just 61 dolphins in 2012," said Samuel Hung, Chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, in 2013. More recently, activists have claimed that plans to build an addition to Hong Kong International Airport threatens the dolphins even further.
AMAZON RIVER DOLPHINS ARE ALSO VULNERABLE
The pink dolphins of the Amazon have healthier numbers than the Chinese white dolphin, but they are under threat. Biologist Sannie Brumr of the Piagacu Institute conducted a recent study that revealed locals are hunting the pink dolphins to use them for fishing bait. Inhabitants of the region kill nearly 150 pink Amazon river dolphins this way every year, a rate that will drive the species to extinction if it continues.
PINK DOLPHINS BLUSH
Are pink dolphins not pink enough for you? Then say or do something to get them excited. Surprise and excitement causes the Amazon river dolphin’s color to brighten in a manner similar to blushing in humans.
AMAZON RIVER FOLKLORE HOLDS THAT PINK DOLPHINS ARE SHAPE-SHIFTERS
The pink dolphins are a significant part of Amazon folklore, and the brightly colored marine mammals aren’t exactly thought of as fairy godmothers. Tradition holds that the dolphins are magical shape-shifters that turn into handsome men at night so they can enter villages and seduce human women.
Next: All About Marine Mammals!
LEGEND ALSO HAS IT THAT PINK DOLPHINS CAUSE NIGHTMARES
Even if an Amazon river dolphin doesn’t try to fool you with its tricky shape-shifting powers, it could be bad luck just to lay eyes on one. The locals of the Amazon Basin believe that looking a pink dolphin in the eye will give you nightmares for the rest of your life. Be careful out there.