Sunday, August 12, 2007

Baiji likely extinct

I'm a save-the-whales kind of girl. So when I read this, I was bummed.

The Yangtze River dolphin or baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), an obligate freshwater odontocete known only from the middle-lower Yangtze River system and neighbouring Qiantang River in eastern China, has long been recognized as one of the world's rarest and most threatened mammal species. The status of the baiji has not been investigated since the late 1990s, when the surviving population was estimated to be as low as 13 individuals. An intensive six-week multi-vessel visual and acoustic survey carried out in November–December 2006, covering the entire historical range of the baiji in the main Yangtze channel, failed to find any evidence that the species survives. We are forced to conclude that the baiji is now likely to be extinct, probably due to unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries. This represents the first global extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years, only the fourth disappearance of an entire mammal family since AD 1500, and the first cetacean species to be driven to extinction by human activity. Immediate and extreme measures may be necessary to prevent the extinction of other endangered cetaceans, including the sympatric Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis).


Sleepydumpling said...

If you can find a copy, read "A Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. Out of all of the animals they went searching for, the Baiji was the only one they couldn't find.


Amy said...

Eric gave me a copy of that book on some weird-format CD when it was first published. We don't have a computer that can read it anymore. It was cool because Adams read it, and he included interviews with experts he consulted as he traveled. There was an Australian snake expert if I remember correctly, and it wasn't Steve Irwin.

Adams came to Madison way back in 1991 or so. I had a chemistry exam that night, so I didn't go and see him. Damn if I haven't kicked myself ever since. I bet that professor would have let me take the test another time; he was a good guy. (Also, I had the highest score in the class. That always makes professors a little more flexible. Pardon me for tutting--I've got to take my successes where I can, even if they're 16 years old.)