The Chinese River Dolphin, the baiji, was put on the endangered species list in 1979. By 1996, it was considered critically endangered. It was declared officially extinct in 2006. A rare sighting of a large white fish in 2007 was confirmed to be a baiji, but there is no hope of its return as a species.
The baiji is the first known aquatic mammal species to become extinct since the Japanese sea lion and the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950’s. It is the first widely researched cetacean species whose extinction is directly tied to human impact.
Pollution of the third longest river in the world, the Yangtze River, is out of control. Industry, agriculture, increasing waterway traffic, and fishing methods not only led to the baiji’s extinction, it has had a negative effect on China’s human population. In addition, illegal dumping, cargo ship leaks, and waste from factories have all poisoned the river. Safe drinking water is now a serious concern. Research done on the growing number of “cancer villages” along the Yangtze is unsettling.
The Baiji, by D. Marie Prokop
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