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Yangtze River Dolphin, We Hardly Knew You

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Posted on Aug 10, 2007

If you’ve been putting off that trip to see China’s “goddess of the Yangtze,” you’ve waited too long. Scientists believe the human-sized dolphin to be the first aquatic mammal species to go extinct in half a century, a victim of China’s economic growth.


The Yangtze River dolphin, one of the world’s rarest mammals, is no more, a victim of China’s breakneck economic growth and competition for food with one of the world’s most common large mammals—human beings.

“We can say that the animal is functionally extinct,” says August Pfluger, head of the Zurich-based Foundation, which in December co-sponsored a six-week, 2,000-mile (3,500-km) survey of the Yangtze without finding a single remaining member of the critically endangered species. The dolphin, one of only four exclusively freshwater species in the world, may have the unhappy distinction of being the first aquatic mammal to go extinct in more than half a century—and the first large mammal driven into oblivion by environmental degradation.

Nicknamed the “goddess of the Yangtze,” and long considered auspicious by fishermen, the pale-colored, human-sized dolphins have always been rare: a 1997 survey recorded only 14 left in the river. (A captive dolphin died of old age in a Chinese zoo in 2002). But Pfluger says human pressure pushed the baiji past the tipping point. “The main reason is overfishing. The Chinese still use unsustainable fishing methods like dynamite. There’s still a lot of illegal fishing, so the dolphins were competing with humans for food.”

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By Forkboy, August 12, 2007 at 11:00 pm Link to this comment

Don’t worry folks…this is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg.  I cannot help but think of that scene in the first Matrix movie where the agent tells Morpheus that humans are like a virus on this planet.  Other animals learn to live in equilibrium with their surroundings, while we (humans)....well, you know.  We destroy and kill everything we can. 

I’d like to suggest it’s a right-wing Republican conspiracy!  After all, as Bible thumpers they must clearly believe in the notion that god (small “g” intentional) gave man dominion over the planet and dominion simply means lawful authority - its definition says nothing about the care of or responsibility to.

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By Douglas Chalmers, August 12, 2007 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

#94260 by Lauren on 8/12 at 11:36 am: “...Hey Frank. You’re kind of a dick, aren’t you…”

He most probably will see “extinction” in his lifetime, Lauren.

So too will the whales in the Alaskan Prudhoe Bay reserve as a result of Bush + buddies having oil exploration there regardless…...

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By Lauren, August 12, 2007 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey Frank. You’re kind of a dick, aren’t you?

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By Ethan, August 12, 2007 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Vaquita porpoise in the Sea of Cortez will be next, unless the Mexican government stands up and does what the Chinese wouldn’t . . . REGULATE FISHERIES and outlaw destructive fishing methods like gill nets!

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By Frank, August 12, 2007 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

Aaron, if you think human extinction is a good thing, why not get started today with yourself?  Just go find a tall building and jump off.

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By Aaron, August 12, 2007 at 12:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hope I get to see the extinction of humanity in my lifetime…

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By Douglas Chalmers, August 10, 2007 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

Oh, well, they still have their “Nine Dragons” in ShangHai…..

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