Yangtze River Dolphin
Alarm sounded for Yangtze River
World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species
How are species classed as extinct?
Researchers recently spent six weeks along the Yangtze River searching for the Yangtze River dolphin, and the search has produced no evidence of the species. Prior to this most recent search, the dolphins had been listed as "critically endangered" and are now believed to be extinct. The Yangtze River dolphin or baiji is the only living representative of an entire family of mammals, which diverged from all other river dolphins more than 20 million years ago. The white, freshwater dolphin had a long, narrow beak and low dorsal fin; lived in groups of three or four and fed on fish. The Yangtze Basin is home to over 10% of the world's human population and pollution concerns along with illegal and legal fishing practices have placed a large number of species into the category of "critically endangered". If the extinction of the baiji is confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate in over 50 years. Researchers noted, "Unlike most historical-era extinctions of large bodied animals, the baiji was the victim not of active persecution but incidental mortality resulting from massive-scale human environmental impacts - primarily uncontrolled and unselective fishing." With the loss of the baiji, Chinese officials, scientists, and marine conservationists are making moves to protect other endangered species found in and along the Yangtze River including the finless porpoise, the Chinese alligator, and the Chinese Paddlefish.
The first link is a piece from the Washington Post discussing the announcement of the baijis extinction and details of the search. The second link leads visitors to the Zoological Society of London's EDGE programme, which works with researchers around the globe to prevent total extinction. Here visitors will find more information on the Yangtze River dolphin including photos and a video. The third link leads to the World Wildlife Fund's Yangtze River section, the short piece describes many of the environmental issues facing the river as well as information about what steps are being taken to improve the conditions in and around the river. A BBC news article is the fourth link and it further discusses the serious list of problems facing the Yangtze River inhabitants both human and animal. For more information on species facing imminent danger, the fifth link leads to the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species. Finally, if you have ever wondered about the process for declaring a species extinct, the last link from the BBC explains how a species earns the dubious distinction of extinction.