China’s white-flag dolphins may be extinct Published: 18 December, 2006
CHINESE scientists will continue to search for a rare freshwater dolphin unique to the Yangtze River, although it is possibly extinct after a 38-day search failed to find any, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.
According to reuters, Foreign experts have already concluded that the baiji, or white-flag dolphin, is extinct, becoming a victim of development, overfishing and shipping along China’s longest river.
Wang Ding, head of a team of scientists that concluded their fruitless search for the baiji last week, said the efforts to search for and protect the dolphin should continue as there might be some of the mammals left in the wild.
“We will try every effort to save them as long as it is not announced to be extinct,” said Wang, who is also vice director of the hydrobiology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The monitoring of hot spots and small-scale searches would continue, he said.
“The 3,400 kilometre (2,125 miles) expedition only covered the main section of the Yangtze River and the scientists only searched for the dolphins eight hours a day, which means some dolphins might have been missed,” said Wei Zhuo, an engineer from the hydrobiology institute, according to the Xinhua report.
The long-beaked, nearly blind baiji is related to other freshwater dolphin species found in the Mekong, Indus, Ganges and Amazon rivers.
In the late 1970s, scientists believed several hundred baiji were still alive, but by 1997 a survey listed just 13 sightings. The last confirmed sighting was in 2004 and the last captive baiji, Qi Qi, died in 2002.
The Chinese government had set up a reserve in a lake in central Hubei province to look after captured baiji, but failed to find any.
The six-week expedition, made up of two ships and 30 scientists from Japan, China, the United States and Switzerland, did spot about 300 of another threatened species, the Yangtze finless porpoise, far less than they had thought they would see.
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