endangered animal: boto-cor-de-rosa

When I saw our week 2 assignment, I knew I wanted to represent a Brazilian animal. Sadly, there’s no shortage of endangered animals in our rich fauna — but I chose the boto rosa because it was a unique, reasonably replicable animal, with fun cylindrical shapes and rich lore behind it.

There are so many fun facts about the boto rosa, but I’ll start with etymology. Boto (pronounce boe-to) comes from the Late Latin word buttis, meaning cask or barrel. It’s a standard Portuguese word for dolphins, and particularly (but not necessarily) freshwater dolphins. The boto-cor-de-rosa (“pink-colored-boto”) has several amusing name variations: boto-vermelho (red-boto), boto-rosa (pink-boto), boto-malhado (spotted-boto), boto-branco (white-boto), costa-quadrada (square-back), cabeça-de-balde (bucket-head), and uiara (from the native Tupi language word ï’yara, meaning “lady of the water”). For simplicity’s sake, I’ll keep calling it boto rosa, because it’s the shortest term and I’m not crazy about the hyphen.

The boto rosa is the largest species of river dolphin, and its pink color is more prominent in males than females. Being such a unique animal, there’s lots of folklore surrounding it. The most famous tale is the one of the encantado, a shapeshifting boto rosa who at night turns into a handsome man to woo girls (and, according to Wikipedia, also impregnate them — I don’t remember that from my childhood stories, but they may have kept them PG at my school), all before going back into the river as a dolphin come morning light.

Recently its biggest threats have been loss of habitat, fishing nets, and to a lesser extent active hunting. However, it’s hard to find data on population trends — I would assume because the region is remote and hard to get around.

Getting to the iteration and prototyping part of the assignment — here were some of the pictures I saved of the boto rosa in its full glory, from a few different angles, as well as my sketches, where I decided to focus on the bust:

Digging through my recycling trash can, the first thing that caught my eye was a big container of protein powder and some (many) cans of White Claw. I thought I’d make the protein powder container the base of the bust, and the cans would be a perfect “nose” (fun fact: apparently this is called a rostrum) — but for that to work, I’d need another cylinder to smooth the edges of the two. Before I could find anything good enough, I found an Absolut vodka bottle at the bottom of the trash can. I decided I’d keep it simple and use just the bottle and one White Claw can (because two together made the rostrum too long in proportion to the head).

I carefully cut up the top of the aluminum can with a box cutter. I figured I’d push the bottom down with a spoon so it’d pop off and be a convex shape, more like a proper rostum. This turned out to be impossible, because the bottom was too hard and the sides of the can were too fragile (I wanted to keep them nice and smooth). So I cut the bottom of a different can, and glued that upside-down on the bottom of this one. I also cut the top of the can once again, this time at a round angle, since the rostrum sits at the bottom of the boto rosa’s head (not the center, as I would’ve thought if I’d sketched it from memory).

The glass bottle didn’t need any cutting (not that I’d have the tools for it), but I really wanted to get rid of the paint label in order to make the glass as smooth as possible. I looked up several tutorials, and eventually found this one which worked best — wrapping the bottle with a paper towel, and soaking it in apple cider vinegar overnight. It worked great, though I did have to scrape some last bits of paint off with my box cutter.

I glued my pieces together and left them to dry in a pretty fragile setup — when I tried to leave it upright, the glue slid off the glass and the bottle cap, standing for the boto rosa’s eye, fell sadly on the floor. Looking at it once it was all glued on, the bottle seemed too narrow for the proportions to be fully realistic, but the rounded edge at the top was exactly what I was looking for (this also happened to be a day after recycling pickup day, so my trash can was emptied out — in my excitement about the bottle, I didn’t think to keep alternatives). I could have also cut the can open to make it thinner, but then the can top would also not be convex anymore, which I really liked. I decided to leave it as it was and say this is a particularly skinny boto rosa.

Last but not least: painting. Once the glue was dry, I mixed some red fabric paint that I already had with some white acrylic paint that my roommate also had. I gave it two coats to get a really opaque covering. While I’m still not fully happy about the proportions, I think the pink helped me see it as the intended animal in a cartoony way.

To finish this project off, here’s an artistic rendition of my boto rosa frolicking with a friend in the Amazon River.