Amazon River Dolphin: Seducer of the Night

By Sherry Zhang

The Amazon river dolphins—otherwise known as the pink river dolphins or “botos”—are freshwater dolphins that reside in the Amazon and Orinoco river basin of South America. In South American culture, the Amazon river dolphins are viewed as mythical creatures and are involved in several legends and myths. In fact, one of the most prevalent myths in the Amazons is the mysterious shape-shifting river dolphin. The myth states that, at night, the dolphin turns into a tall, handsome, charming man who travels onshore to seduce the daughters of wives of the villagers. Before returning to the water when the sun rises, the man impregnates the women. The women would have no recollection of their encounter with the man, forced to face the unexpected pregnancy alone. While it is just a myth, the shape-shifting river dolphin has long been used and is still being used today in isolated rural villages of the Amazon as a cover story for scandalous pregnancies—whetherfrom an affair, an act of incest, or sexual assault.