Cerebral Shangrila

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

20 Million Years and a Farewell - Baiji Dolphin is extinct

Baiji, a white dolphin found in the Yangtze river in China is now officially extinct. I first learnt about the plight of these dolphins in the book " Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams.

NYT reports, " On Wednesday, an expedition in search of any baiji, run by Chinese biologists and baiji.org, a Swiss foundation, ended empty-handed after six weeks of patrolling its onetime waters in the middle and lower stretches of the river, the baiji’s only known habitat.

For some 20 million years, the baiji, also called the white-flag dolphin, frequented the Yangtze’s sandy shallows, using sonar to catch fish in the silty flow.In the last few decades, the dolphin’s numbers plunged as rapidly as the Chinese economy surged. The Yangtze’s sandy shallows, which the baiji frequented, have largely been dredged for shipping.The baiji sought fish that have been netted or driven from the river by pollution. And its sonar may have been disrupted by the propeller noise from boats above. A 1997 survey counted 13 baiji in the river. None of the dolphins survive in captivity.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pfluger ( of Baiji.org) distributed a news release concluding that the baiji was “functionally extinct.” (Decades must pass before international scientific organizations take the formal step of declaring it officially extinct.)The name of the document was, simply, “The End.


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