Plant Talk

Dolphins Spotted in the Bronx River for the First Time in Over Five Years

Posted in Environment & Conservation on January 26, 2023, by Cosette Patterson

Environmental successes serve as beacons of hope and inspiration, and it is especially crucial these days to amplify them. Recently, one of these success stories took place in the Bronx—for the first time in over five years, a pair of bottlenose dolphins were spotted swimming in the Bronx River near Starlight Park, as reported by CNN. This is a happy indicator that the decades-long effort to restore the health and quality of the water is paying off.

A dolphin fin rises out of the water, causing ripples in the Bronx River

As the only freshwater river in the city, the Bronx River is an ecosystem full of many aquatic species that rely on the 24-mile stretch for habitat. Downstream, the river forms an estuary where freshwater and saltwater mix, providing suitable conditions for a short stop-off by dolphin visitors. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has restocked the water with alewife and other fish, making the conditions especially good for these magnificent marine mammals.

The history of the Bronx River is intertwined with environmental issues, but is a story of the success that stems from a community’s diligence and collective effort. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the industrial boom, urbanization, and burgeoning railroads caused increasing pollution within the river. Early restoration efforts began with the completion of the Bronx River Parkway in 1925, and picked up in the 70s with the foundation of the Bronx River Restoration Project. Since then, many organizations have devoted their work to cleaning up the river—especially the Bronx River Alliance, which was founded in 2001 and works closely with the New York City Parks Department.

Photo of the Bronx River

The Bronx River runs through NYBG grounds, bisecting the Garden and flowing past the Thain Family Forest, Magnolia and Cherry Collections, and Goldman Stone Mill. The river is not only beautiful, but provides habitat for the flora and fauna on its banks. NYBG is proud to be a part of the community that is dedicated to caring for this invaluable resource.

Like the beavers that were sighted several years ago in the stretch of the Bronx River that passes through the Garden, these dolphins are a testament to the achievements that can be made when communities and organizations are involved in environmental action for the betterment of all: dolphins, humans, and plants alike.

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