Chinese river dolphin nearly extinct says official
December 3, 2006 [Updated Dec. 5]
Xinhua cites Wang Ding, vice director of the hydrobiology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying there may be less than 50 Baiji left in the wild.
Baiji populations have steadily declined since China declared the species endangered in 1979. In 1986 official estimates placed the Baiji population around 300 but an extensive survey in 1998 found only 7 individuals. Conservation efforts to date have been fruitless and the species is expected to be completely extinct within the wild within 20 years.
The Baiji migrated from the Pacific to the Yangtze River 20,000 some years ago according to fossil records. There are four families of river dolphins found worldwide: the Baiji, the Ganges and Indus River Dolphin from India, the Amazon River Dolphin or Boto from South America, and the La Plata Dolphin or Franciscana, also from South America. River dolphins are some of the world's most endangered cetaceans.
December 5 Update:
A December 5, 2006 article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted the plight of the Banji, noting that should the species be declared extinct, it would be the first large aquatic mammal to disppear since the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s. The article also said that the Yangtze used to be a highly diverse river system compared to "the Amazon of the East, rich in wildlife like alligators, elephants, giant sturgeons and an unusually large salamander" before pollution, agriculture, and deforestation took their toll. The article notes that the United Nations Environment Program declared the Yangtze estuary a dead zone in October 2006, meaning the water doesn't have enough oxygen in it to support fish.
This article uses information from Reuters, Xinhua, and The Wall Street Journal.
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