Latest News:  
Beijing   Dust    21 / 12 ℃  City Forecast

Home>>Life & Culture

Deaths of 'river pig' dolphins raise specter of extinction

By Dong Zhen (Shanghai Daily)

08:49, April 27, 2012

WHEN the "bai ji", or white Yangtze River dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2007, the last surviving mammal in the Yangtze River became the finless porpoise (jiang tun), fondly known as the river pig because of its rotund appearance.

Now the river pig, once revered as a river god and predictor of weather and guide to good fishing, is on the verge of extinction.

The urgency of the problem has been highlighted by the discovery of 10 dead mammals, commonly called river dolphins, since March 3 in Dongting Lake, according to the Fishery Affairs Management Station (FAMS) of the Animal Husbandry and Aquatic Products Bureau of Hunan's Yueyang City.

Another six have been reported dead since the beginning of this year in east China's Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, according to the provincial fishery bureau.

The discovery and disturbing photos of dead mammals, including an unborn fetus, caused public indignation and demands for the government to act. Last weekend the provincial government said it would relocate the dolphins to a safe part of the lake, China's second largest.

No one knows when that will begin and time is running out for the dolphins.

Today only around a thousand live in the Yangtze River basin, including around 80 in Dongting Lake and some in Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, in Jiangxi Province. Chinese scientists say they will be extinct in around 15 years, decreasing by 5-6 percent a year.

Initial postmortem findings indicated that the animals had not eaten in a long time, and at least two were starving, signaling habitat damage and lack of food. One female was pregnant and one animal had been severely injured by a boat's propeller.

The common causes of endangerment are human activity: fishing with dynamite and electric current, draining of habitat, dredging, river traffic, and pollution that includes toxic industrial discharge.

The river pig has long been considered a signal of coming storms because it makes small repeated leaps in the air, known as "saluting the wind" by fishermen. They know it's time to tie up their boats. The appearance of the finless porpoise, also signals good fishing sites.

Since 2006 scientists have been unable to find any trace of the "bai ji," the white Yangtze River dolphin, a species with fins. In 2007 the 25-million-year-old species was declared functionally extinct.

【1】 【2】 【3】 【4】


Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. Artists perform Kun Opera at UNESCO headquarters

  2. Tulip festival in Morges, Switzerland

  3. Chinese research vessel starts 26th oceanic expedition

  4. China Int'l Cartoon & Animation Festival in Hangzhou

Most Popular


  1. Relations reach new heights
  2. China opposes Philippine school in S. China Sea
  3. Top adviser's visit promotes friendship, cooperation
  4. Where does the world go from here?
  5. Panicky responses to shootings harm students
  6. ChiNext delisting policies ramp up risk for investors
  7. Motives behind Tokyo's claim to buy Diaoyu Islands
  8. Huangyan crisis hints long-term tensions
  9. Arab countries hold mixed feelings towards US
  10. Renminbi's global use growing

What's happening in China

Entering Jiaxi Nature Reserve in Hainan

  1. 2nd Beijing International Film Festival
  2. Chinese migrant workers' wages up 21.2%
  3. Railways ready for upcoming Labor Day holiday
  4. Chinese cities rank in top 20 retail hubs
  5. Pop culture T-shirts under fire

PD Online Data

  1. Spring Festival
  2. Chinese ethnic odyssey
  3. Yangge in Shaanxi
  4. Gaoqiao in Northern China
  5. The drum dance in Ansai