Yangtze River-dolphin

The Yangtze river-dolphin of China, or baiji as it is called locally, was first described in scientific journals only 80 years ago.

In 1979, baiji was classified as endangered.
In August 2007, it was officially declared extinct.

The Yangtze river-dolphin had a stocky body about one and a half metres long. It had tiny eyes, and reasonable eyesight. Its long, narrow slightly upturned beak was like that of other river-dolphins. It appeared to be a dark blue-grey on its back and greyish white on its stomach. It had a triangular dorsal fin, and its flippers were broad and rather rounded.

Baiji were most active from early evening to early morning, but also hunted fish during the day. A very shy animal, it was difficult to approach, so sightings of it were very rare. They were apparently often alone or in groups of up to six, generally in places where streams join the main river, especially around shallow sand banks.

Sometimes, when it was very quiet, the baiji's blow could be heard, sounding a little like a sneeze.

In 1975, China declared the Baiji a 'National Treasure' and began conservation and protection of the mammal. This had little success because of heavy boat traffic, fishing, and industrial development, including the construction of the world's largest dam, the Three Gorges dam. A lake in Hubei province was made into a reserve, with the aim of moving the animals there to better protect them. However, it was too late, and no baiji were found despite an intense search.

The Yangtze is one of the world's busiest rivers in the world's most populated country.

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Dolphins and Porpoises (2003). [Online], Available: www.kidcyber.com.au

Updated August 2007