Skip to comments.Yangtzse River dolphin 'now extinct'
Posted on 08/08/2007 8:38:26 AM PDT by BGHater
The Yangtze River dolphin enjoys a rare and depressing distinction, according to new research.
The grey white, long-beaked animal is the world's first cetacean -the order of whales, dolphins and porpoises -to be made extinct by man, concludes an international team that has conducted comprehensive surveys of its habitat.
The demise of the near-blind mammal also represents the first extinction of a large vertebrate (backboned animal) for more than 50 years, since overhunting claimed the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s. A zoologist said it was a "shocking tragedy."
The paper, lead-authored by Dr Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is published in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters and blames its extinction on a degraded habitat in the Yangtze waters of eastern China.
With little need to see in the shallow, turbid Yangtze waters, the dolphin - for centuries called the Goddess of the Yangtze and the subject of myth and legend - evolved a highly effective sonar above its beak.
But the roar of marine traffic along one of China's premier waterways effectively blinded it. Ships and tourist boats sucked them into their propellers, pollution poisoned their river home and, most of all, they suffered because of overfishing.
In the 1950s several thousand baiji, as the dolphins are known in Chinese, were thought to swim in the Yangtze. The last authenticated record was in 2001. By the end of 2006, an expedition by the team triggered reports that the creature was functionally extinct, suggesting only one or two individuals at most survived. Now the team concludes it is probably extinct.
Dr Turvey said: "The primary factor responsible for the baiji's extinction was probably unsustainable by-catch in uncontrolled and unselective local fisheries, which use rolling hook long lines, nets and electro-fishing.
"Relatively little information remains available on causes of baiji mortality, but between 40-50 per cent of all known baiji deaths over the past few decades were caused by fishing gear. "
"The loss of such a unique and charismatic species is a shocking tragedy. The Yangtze River dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over 20m years ago.
"This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet."
At the Hydrobiology Institute in Wuhan, the story of the stuffed, enamelled body of Qi-Qi, the most famous Yangtze River dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) to have lived in captivity tells how the march of modernisation transformed the dolphin's river home in silty waters into its graveyard.
The dolphin was found badly bruised, the victim of illegal fishing, in 1980. A female was introduced to his enclosure once but she died before she was old enough to reproduce.
"This wasn't the only Yangtze dolphin kept in captivity - there were actually several over the years," said Dr Turvey. "However, Qi-Qi lived for over 22 years, was the last surviving captive baiji, and became the most famous baiji individual.
Dr Turvey added, "The baiji's extinction also highlights the need for new conservation initiatives in China's increasingly threatened Yangtze ecosystem, which is also home to endangered freshwater porpoises, seven-metre long fish, giant salamanders and white Siberian cranes."
Scientists and environmentalists are now focusing on saving its cousin, the finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides). About 2,700 porpoises lived along the Yangtze in 1991 but the population is now "rapidly declining," he said.
What a truly sad loss.
China : Wildlife :: Michael Vick : Dogs
I wonder how he was prepared, and what wine was used?
The grey white, long-beaked animal is the world’s first cetacean...to be made extinct by man.
Correction: Made extinct by the Chinese Communists
I think that in China, “illegal fishing” is when you fish without paying someone off. The chinese government doesn’t care much about humans, so why would they care about a fish?
Shocking news from the People's Republic of Red China? Not.
It's surprising they lasted that long.
Is it gone or is the water so polluted that it left?.......
Correction: Made extinct by the Chinese Communists
And environmentalism is the modern cover for communists, so this is the worlds first cetacean to be made extinct by environmentalists.
You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary. They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn't so smeary.
China is in the midst of building the world’s largest dam across the Yangtze ... I suppose that also was a contributing factor.
I’m shocked that Klintoon’s good friend and Strategic Partner, Red China, would allow their rivers to become so polluted that indigenous species would go extinct. /sarc
It was Bush’s fault.
Is it extinct, or just exitnct in the wild? I know I have seen examples of this species in captivity, or have all those passed as well?
Simply attaching a cage around the propellers would have eliminated that problem.
Excellent. Following logic to it’s conclusion.
It should be honored in being a pioneer. But there are a lot more cetaceans out there, people ...
“Yangtzse River dolphin ‘now extinct’”
Stan: Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly.
Cartman: Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise.
It's China though, so the Sierra Club/Greenpeace crowd is silent.
Well, if you believe in Evolution you can still hope that another dolphin will evolve to take its place. No big deal.