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Project information

Save Franciscana dolphins from extinction

The Franciscana dolphin is the most threatened dolphin in the Southwestern Atlantic. They live in coastal waters of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina and are being driven to extinction by entanglement i fishing nets.

Through research and community engagement, we want to give these dolphins a future.

October 2015 - September 2016

Charity information: WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation logo
  • Need


    Franciscana are one of the smallest dolphin species in the world. They live in coastal waters where fishing activities have driven them to the brink of extinction.

    The biggest threat they face is getting accidentally entangled in fishing nets. They are also threatened by destruction of their home, pollution and climate change.

    The tiny population of Franciscana who live in the Rio Negro Estuary in Northern Patagonia are especially vulnerable - but we can save them!


    Establishing a nature reserve in the dolphins' home will protect them from the deadly nets that threaten their future. Engagement with local communities is crucial for success, and we will work with authorities, the Chamber of Tourism, fishermen, teachers and the community - by education and awareness raising we will develop understanding of the threats the dolphins face and equip local people to protect them as well as establishing dolphin watching as a means of developing sustainable income.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Save the Franciscana dolphins of the Rio Negro Estuary in Northern Patagonia.


    » Carry out vital research to get a true picture of the number of dolphins left as well as the numbers dying as a result of human activities.
    » Work with the local community, empowering them to monitor and protect the dolphins and their habitat.
    » Engage with local and national authorities to establish a nature reserve to protect the dolphins' home.
    » Develop and promote land-based, responsible dolphin watching to give local communities a more sustainable economy.

    What success will look like

    Baseline data collated on numbers of dolphins
    Reduction in numbers of dolphins killed in nets
    Establishment of nature reserve
    Responsible dolphin watch industry established

  • Impact


    Fishing activities will be reduced in the areas important to the dolphins and local communities have alternative sources of income and a pride in protecting the dolphins with whom they share their home.


    The only risk that this project might face is bad weather conditions during fieldwork . In this case the research will be rescheduled.


    We will report back to donors by email and through our quarterly magazine.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £24,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £12,000 Research Equipment, supplies and staff costs to carry out boat and beach based surveys
      £12,000 Community engagement Community workshops, staff costs, production of materials, travel
  • Background


    The Rio Negro Estuary is in Northern Patagonia, Argentina. The area is of great importance to Franciscana dolphins for breeding, feeding and raising their young. The dolphins who make their homes here are isolated from other populations and under enormous threat. There are currently no specific protection measures in place. Our project aims to address this and give them a future. We can then share this model with communities in other important areas for Franciscana dolphins in South America.


    By putting protection measures in place and equipping local people to look after the dolphins we can save them from extinction. Local communities will also benefit from a more sustainable economy with income generated by dolphin watching.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    WDC is the leading global charity dedicated to the protection and conservation of whales and dolphins. WDC has supported efforts to protect the Franciscana dolphins since 2001 and we have networks of conservationists and scientists throughout the region.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Miguel Iniguez

    Strategy director and project leader

    Mauricio Failla

    Head of the community engagement and education team

    Mariana Melcon

    Lead scientist

Franciscana are the smallest dolphin species in the world but they face so many threats. Please donate today and help protect them.

Miguel Iñíguez