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Within my study Biology I am interested in animal ecology and especially of cetaceans. It was a great
opportunity for me to do a four month internship in Bolivia within the NGO Faunagaua. The internship
was concentrated on the river dolphin, Inia boliviensis, a unique cetacean present in Bolivia. At the
beginning of the internship I had set several learning goals regarding the improvement of knowledge and
skills on NGO’s, on the river dolphin species and research methodologies.
During my stay several activities have contributed to achieve a number of goals. I went two times to
the field to do direct-count surveys of river dolphins. The objective of these projects is to estimate the
distribution and abundance of the Inia boliviensis in the rivers Mamoré, Madeira, Abuna, Negro, Apere,
Ibare and Tijamuchi. Physical and chemical characteristics of the rivers are taken to understand how the
environment influences the distribution and abundance.
Next, I participated in a workshop, in which the first steps were taken in the development of an
action plan for the conservation of Inia boliviensis in Bolivia. The objective was to elaborate and
coordinate a national strategy with several stakeholders. For several strategy lines objectives and
activities were formulated: Investigation and monitoring; Environmental education and local
participation; Rules and politics; Management and organizational strengthening; Alternatives of
conservation and sustainable development; Communication strategies; and Responsible tourism.
In my last activity I took part in an education program to inform primary schoolchildren about the
river dolphins and to generate a positive attitude for the conservation of these animals and their
ecosystems. The program is based on five key elements: the biology of the species, its habitat, the
interaction with man, the threats generated by man and the solutions or proposals for conservation.
Regarding to these elements several activities were carried out.
In conclusion, the internship was a useful experience. I have find out what my strengths and
weaknesses are; I gained new knowledge and skills and met many new people. I achieved many of my
learning goals, however for some the conditions did not permit to achieve them as I wanted.
I got insight into the work of an NGO. The financing of projects is an important factor and forces to
be flexible in attitude and approach. I learned more about the biology and ecology of river dolphins and
the threats they face in Bolivia. Working together with the different stakeholders and by education these
threats have to be approached. To succeed in conservation of the species, the sharing of knowledge,
ideas and opinions is of importance. There is still a lot to discover and research methods can be
At last this internship has given me new insights and motivation to pursue a career in ecological
research abroad. To prepare myself for my future career I can improve several things. I can work on my
communication skills so that I am able to present and express myself more confidently. I could perform
certain tasks in research better if I have more experience in the research methodologies applied in
cetacean studies.
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