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Desperate bid to save Yangtze river pig

By Wang Xiaodong, Zhou Lihua (China Daily)

08:41, August 23, 2012

A woman calling for protection of the Yangtze finless porpoise, also called river pig, visits a finless porpoise in the Wuhan Chinese White Flag Dolphin Aquarium in the Hubei provincial capital. (Photo/China Daily)

Despite his tireless work over the past few years to help the Yangtze finless porpoise survive, Xu Yaping is still pessimistic about the fate of the endangered species.

"The number of river pigs is declining, and I'm afraid they may become extinct in the next few years, instead of the 10 years suggested by some experts, if we do not take further measures to protect them," Xu said.

Xu established the Yangtze Finless Porpoise Conservation Society in January. He spends most of his time with other society members patrolling Dongting Lake and sharing conservation ideas with local government officials.

The finless porpoise, also called river pig, is found only in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and Poyang and Dongting lakes, the largest two freshwater lakes in China, which are linked to the Yangtze.

Although once common in the river, the porpoises now number only about 1,000, and the population is declining at an annual rate of more than 6 percent, said Wang Ding, former deputy director of the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Extinction of the finless porpoise may be avoided thanks to the latest government protection effort, authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Wang said.

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