Yangtze's Lost Dolphin
From the Guardian (London), comes a report on an expedition in China seeking any remaining Baiji, or Yangtze River dolphins:
"When they write the environmental history of early 21st-century China, the freshwater dolphin expedition now plying the Yangtze river may be seen as man's farewell to an animal it once worshipped. A team of the world's leading marine biologists is making a last-gasp search for the baiji, a dolphin that was revered as the goddess of Asia's mightiest river but is now probably the planet's most endangered mammal." ...
"The baiji expedition started out as a typically modern-day mission: a cascade of beer from the brewery sponsoring the launch, technical support from international research institutes and a shipfull of good intentions and high hopes. But more than halfway through the six-week expedition, the mood is grimmer as the participants contemplate the possibility that man may have killed off its first species of dolphin.
"Spotters on the two boats have yet to glimpse a pale dorsal fin or hear the telltale trace of a sonar whistle, but the organisers refuse to give up. 'The likelihood of the baiji being extinct in five to 10 years is 90% or more, but we must have hope and do everything possible,' says August Pflüger, head of baiji.org, a Swiss-based group devoted to saving whales and dolphins.
"Few people outside China have heard of the baiji, a light grey, long-snouted river dolphin that relies on sonar rather than its eyes to navigate through the murky Yangtze water. But even more than the panda, the demise of this mammal illustrates the sacrifices that the world's most populous country has made in its race to grow richer.
"In the 1950s, there were thousands of baiji in the Yangtze. By 1994, the number fell below 100. This year, there has only been one, unconfirmed, sighting." ...
"Whether this is too little, too late for the baiji will not be conclusively determined by the expedition. But if the most advanced survey of the river yet comes up blank, the baiji's prospects are grim. 'If we cannot find any baiji, the message to society will be that there is no hope for them,' says Wang."
[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]