China dolphin believed extinct

'Goddess of the Yangtze' may have fallen victim to shipping, fishing and pollution.

    In Video

    Click to watch Al Jazeera's report [AFP]

    They call her the Goddess of the Yangtze - the Baiji dolphin has navigated China's longest river for millions of years.
     
    According to Chinese legend, this prehistoric freshwater mammal was a river god.
     
    It hasn't been seen since 2002.
     
    In December last year a concerned group of international scientists searched the Yangtze for six weeks ... using visual and acoustic surveys.
     
    They covered the dolphin's nearly 1,700km range, stretching from Yichang to Shanghai.
     
    August Pfluger, chief executive of the the Baiji Org Foundation, said: "We didn't see any animals in the river.

    "And if there are maybe one or two or three left in the river, I don't think, we don't believe, they have any chance to survive." 

    Baiji facts

    One of the world's oldest dolphin species

    Believed to have survived unchanged for 25 million years

    Navigates by echolocation or sonar-like sounds

    Extinction blamed on industrial pollution, boat propellers, fishing nets, dams and reduced prey

    Last confirmed sighting in 2004

    An international team of marine biologists announced the Baiji is likely to be extinct and could be the first dolphin or whale to be wiped out by human activity.
     
    China's economic growth has had a huge impact on the country's biggest waterway.
     
    Marine biologists believe the nearly blind Baiji has fallen victim to the increased shipping, overfishing, development and pollution.
     
    Scientists hope the Baiji's disappearance is a major warning sign to governments to act quickly to save other threatened mammals, especially in shallow waters.
     
    "We have to rethink our fresh water strategies, we have to find a way towards a sustainable way to treat the ocean and of course the fresh water resources in general," Pfluger said.
     
    "And I think we should take the loss of the Baiji as a warning signal to really go ahead with these issues."
     
    Many who live along the Yangtze river and revered the Baiji dolphin, say a part of China's soul has gone forever.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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