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New expedition seeks evidence for survival of the ‘extinct’ Baiji

New expedition seeks evidence for survival of the ‘extinct’ Baiji

New expedition seeks evidence for survival of the ‘extinct’ Baiji
Jeremy Hance,
April 16, 2008

The EDGE program, apart of the London Zoological Society, has sent an expedition to the Yangtze River to survey local fishermen for any evidence that the Baiji may still survive.

One of the scientists, Dr. Sam Turvey, was on an expedition last summer that found no sign of the Baiji in the Yangtze’s oxbow lakes, furthering the belief that the mammal is extinct. In December 2006 an expedition saw no sign of Baijis during a six-week survey of the river. Expedition leaders stated that they believed the dolphin was “functionally extinct”.

To add more mystery to the status of the Baiji, in August 2007 a local man videotaped what may have been a Baiji in the Anhui Province. Despite excitement from Chinese and Western media, marine biologists were more skeptical, noting that even if the animal was a Baiji it did not mean there were enough individuals in the Yangtze to stage a comeback.

The last captive Baiji died in 2002 after twenty-two years. No other captive Baijis survived beyond three years and most lasted less than a year.

The Baiji, also known as the Yangtze River Dolphin, suffered from a large number of human-related threats, including over-fishing, pollution, increased boat traffic, and the construction of dams. If extinct, it was a casualty to China’s western-style industrialization. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise, which inhabits the same ecosystem as the Baiji faces the same threats.

EDGE scientists will be returning from China in two weeks with more answers regarding the embattled Baiji.

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