For over 20 years, Toninhas do Brasil (Franciscanas of Brazil), carried out by the University of the Region of Joinville – UNIVILLE, in partnership with Petrobras, has been working towards the conservation of the franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei), the most endangered small dolphin in the Western South Atlantic. Bringing together a multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to the conservation of biodiversity and marine ecosystems, the project is a benchmark reference, both in Brazil and worldwide, when it comes to research and conservation of small cetaceans.


Pesquisadora aponta para uma toninha na água durante o monitoramento visual das toninhas em São Francisco do Sul (SC).


Our research aims to generate information on the ecology of franciscanas, contributing to the expansion of knowledge on their natural history and the ecosystems in which they live. Understanding the socio-environmental reality of coastal environments is also our purpose.
Educadora ambiental do Projeto Toninhas do Brasil mostra para um pequeno grupo de crianças uma semente de palmito juçara em uma das trilhas ecológicas do Projeto.


Environmental Education is a way of interacting with the communities where we work, through which we teach and learn, sharing knowledge for the conservation of franciscanas and coastal and marine ecosystems.
Grupo de cerca de 50 crianças brincam de roda em dois círculos no gramado durante o evento maratoninha que aconteceu em Garopaba (SC) em 2018.


We seek communication strategies aimed at building bridges between the academic world and society in general. Our mission is to make the franciscana a symbol of the coastal regions of southeastern and southern Brazil, reflecting the quality of these environments.


A imagem mostra um desenho científico (esquemático) de uma toninha, evidenciando suas principais características morfológicas.


The franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) is a species of small coastal dolphin. Adults reach up to about 1.60 m in length and have an average weight of 35 kg. The most notable morphological features of the species are the long and thin rostrum (“beak”), with more than 200 teeth; the dorsal fin, small and almost triangular; and its coloring, which can vary between shades of brown, gray, and yellow.


Franciscanas are only found on the east coast of South America, in the Atlantic Ocean. They are distributed mainly in coastal and shallow waters between Espírito Santo, in Brazil, and Golfo San Matias, in Argentina, reaching maximum depths of up to 50 meters. Franciscanas live in small groups, with 2 to 5 individuals. But it is common to find several groups occupying the same area while feeding.


The main threat to the species is bycatch in gillnets; i.e. unintentional captures, since the franciscanas get tangled up in the nets. Population reduction due to death by bycatch is one of the main challenges to the conservation of the species. In Brazil, the franciscana is classified as critically endangered by the Ministry of Environment’s list of endangered species.

The image above was developed by Hew Barreto / VIVA Instituto Verde Azul.


The Adventures of the Franciscana Babi

The production of materials for education and science communication that can be widely used by society is an important activity of the project. Herem you can find these products or the links to access them.