Calendar » Global Biodiversity Challenge: River Dolphins and Development – Is This Possible?

Global Biodiversity Challenge: River Dolphins and Development – Is This Possible?

June 20, 2023 | 10:00 AM |

Global Biodiversity Challenge: 
River Dolphins and Development – Is This Possible?

June 20, 2023

8:00 - 9:30 am | Washington, DC
7:00 - 8:30 am | Colombia


Meeting number (access code): 2319 785 2336 | Password: Dolphins2023! | Global call-in numbers



Join us in this technical learning event organized by the Biodiversity Conservation Technical Group of the World Bank, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Amazon Sustainable Landscape Program (ASL) to learn about river dolphins and the perils that six species are facing to survive in the only two regions where they live (South America and South Asia). We will discuss the conservation and avoidance measures taken to reduce harm to these dolphin species as a result of development projects, including those in the World Bank.
River dolphins are bio-indicators of the river health they inhabit. They are apex predators of river systems, maintaining healthy fish and crustacean populations which in turn are essential sources of protein for local communities. River dolphins are also charismatic species that bring tourism revenues to local economies. For some indigenous communities of the amazon region, river dolphins are magical creatures.  However, all six species of river dolphins are endangered or critically endangered.
Government action and financial resources are critical to improve management and conservation of the river dolphins and their habitat. The targets of the new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), as agreed in COP15 and the upcoming Global Declaration for River Dolphins, sets opportunities for countries and the Bank to support investments and actions to halt and reverse the loss of river dolphin populations and achieve nature-positive finance for these unique species.


Opening Remarks:

Christophe Crepin, Practice Manager, South Asia Region, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy (ENB) GP
Ruth Tiffer-Sotomayor, Senior Environmental Specialist, Eastern Africa Region, ENB GP
Speakers from global to local:

Daphne Willems, Lead WWF, Global River Dolphin Rivers Initiative 

Brian Smith, IUCN CSG Asia Co-coordinator
Md Istiak Sobhan, Senior Environmental Specialist, South Asia Region, ENB GP 

Marcelo Oliveira, WWF Brazil, Coordinator for the South American River Dolphins Initiative
Ximena Rojas Giraldo, Director of Marine, Coastal and Aquatic Resources Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia

Marcela Portocarrero-Aya, Environmental Specialist, Latin America & the Caribbean Region, ENB GP
Ahmed Shawky, Senior Water Resources Management Specialist, South Asia Region, Water GP

Speaker Bios

Brian D. Smith 
has served as Senior Advisor for the WCS Marine Wildlife Bycatch Reduction Initiative since 2022. Between 2006 and 2022, he led the WCS Bangladesh Program which initially focused on providing protection for among the world’s largest populations of globally threatened freshwater and coastal dolphins through robust conservation science, strong engagement with community and the establishment of marine protected areas. Brian currently serves as the Asia Co-coordinator for the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group and is a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conservation Committee and World Commission on Protected Areas/IUCN SSC Marine Mammal Protected Area Task Force.

Istiak Sobhan is a Senior Environmental Specialist of the Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice of the World Bank. Before joining the World Bank, he worked as the Program Coordinator at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. His primary research interests and areas of specialization are landscape ecology, biodiversity, and species distribution across the landscape. He has a PhD from the School of Production Ecology & Resource Conservation of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Marcelo Oliveira has 13 years working as a Senior Programme Officer at WWF-Brazil.  He has led the WWF's Wildlife Protection Programme since 2021 and he also coordinates the South American River Dolphins Initiative since its creation in 2018. He has a Master´s degree in Conservation Leadership by the University of Cambridge. Since 2019, he is responsible for implementing a strategy to reduce the impacts of goldmining in the Amazon which is affecting traditional communities and biodiversity.

Ximena Rojas Giraldo is a marine biologist with a master's degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD student in Marine Management and Conservation. With experience of nearly 20 years in integrated management of coastal marine areas, marine planning and adaptation to climate change. She has worked at the Institute or Marine Studies (Invemar), the Ministry of Environment and the German cooperation agency GIZ -Colombia.

Marcela Portocarrero-Aya is an Environmental Specialist working in the Latin America and Caribbean Region of the World Bank. She is a biologist with a PhD in Aquatic Ecology and Resource Management, with more than 13 years of experience in biodiversity conservation, freshwater natural resources, sustainable landscape planning. Marcela started her career working with river dolphins in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. She has a deep passion for all actions that promote the sustainable use of natural resources, establishing key environmental, social, financial and productive conditions that promote biodiversity conservation. Marcela has been at the World Bank for almost 6 years working with Colombia's ENB portfolio.