Is the Yangtze River Dolphin Extinct?

A disturbing article in Science (22 Dec 06) reports that a 6 week, 3500 kilometer survey has failed to find even a single Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) – also known as baiji. Habitat threats, including illegal fishing, river pollution and increased boat traffic, have contributed to the dolphin’s demise. A plan by a team from the U.K., U.S. and China to capture and rescue any dolphins found during the survey went unfulfilled. The last comprehensive survey was conducted in 1997 and resulted in the sighting of only 13 baiji. It is feared that, even if a handful of these dolphins remain, they may not muster the critical mass necessary for reproduction and survival.

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