Just what you want to read coming into Christmas week. From the WCDS:
‘An expedition to document the last remaining Chinese river dolphins has returned after a six week survey which covered the entire known range of the baiji or Yangtze River dolphin. A team of international scientists using both visual and acoustic monitoring techniques made a full sweep of the area but failed to record one sighting, leading experts to believe that this species is now extinct.
WDCS is devastated by the loss of the baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, the first recorded extinction of a cetacean species to be caused by human activity. The baiji represents a loss not just of a species but a whole family of animals which were endemic to the Yangtze River and evolved separately to other whales and dolphins for over 20 million years. The baiji was described as a â€˜living fossilâ€™, remaining as it had, unchanged for at least 3 million years since it first left the sea to swim into the Yangtze River. ‘
But what happened? From Wikipedia:
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has noted the following as threats to the species: a period of hunting by humans during the Great Leap Forward, entanglement in fishing gear, the illegal practice of electric fishing, collisions with boats and ships, habitat loss, and pollution.
During the Great Leap Forward, when traditional veneration of the Baiji was denounced, it was hunted for its flesh and skin, and it quickly became scarce.
As China developed economically, pressure on the river dolphin grew significantly. Industrial and residential waste flowed into the Yangtze. The riverbed was dredged and reinforced with concrete in many locations. Ship traffic multiplied, the size of the boats grew, and fishermen employed wider and more lethal nets.
Noise pollution made the nearly blind animal prone to collisions with propellers. Stocks of the dolphin’s prey had declined drastically in recent decades as well, with some fish populations declining to one thousandth of their pre-industrial levels.