River dolphin, thought extinct, ‘spotted’ in China

This video is from the BBC: A scientific expedition in China searching for the Yangtze River Dolphin has said they are now functionally extinct.

From New Scientist:

Rare river dolphin ‘spotted’ in China

* 12:42 30 August 2007

* Catherine Brahic

A rare dolphin, thought to be extinct, may have been sighted swimming in the Yangtze River in China. But scientists fear that even if the sighting of the Baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin, is confirmed it may be too late to bring the species back from the dead.

“I have the horrible sensation that I will watch it die all over again,” says Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society in London, UK.

Turvey was part of a six-week survey which sought in vain to find the last remnants of the Baiji population in November and December 2006. In August 2007, he and his team published the survey’s results: not a single dolphin was seen during the six weeks, and the species was probably extinct (see Yangtze river dolphin is almost certainly extinct). Listen to the Baiji‘s whistle here.

Now, a video shot on 19 August has emerged in which a large white Baiji-like animal is seen swimming in a section of the Yangtze river known to have been a Baiji hotspot. The video was shot by a Chinese man and eventually made its way to the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan, China, where biologists have confirmed that the animal in the film may be a Baiji.

Breeding hope

Turvey, who has seen sections of the film, says it is impossible to say for sure as the video is of poor quality and was shot from a great distance. “I’m worried that we may get into a grey area. Like when Bigfoot film appears on film somewhere, but it is never verifiable,” he told New Scientist.

According to an online translation of the account given by the man who shot the film, the animal was seen jumping out of the water. Baiji do not jump out of the water, says Turvey, and neither do their relatives, finless porpoise. He says both species do arch their back when they surface to breathe, which could have been mistaken for a jump; and the account may have been poorly translated.

The scientists at the Institute of Hydrobiology will be heading out to the area where the film was shot within the next few weeks to conduct further surveys. If Baiji are found, Turvey hopes they will become the founding members of a breeding programme in an effort to restore the species.

There have been examples of bird species being brought back from the brink of extinction. In the 1980s, the last population of just five Chatham Island Robins, was restored from a single breeding pair.

Turvey and his colleagues have long been advocating the creation of a breeding programme for the Baiji. “Over the past few decades nothing was done when we knew there were still Baiji around,” says Turvey, “so if there are a few Baiji left now, the conservation society really has to do something.”

Endangered species – Learn more about the conservation battle in our comprehensive special report.

See also here.

South American river dolphins: here.

More endangered species: here.

3 thoughts on “River dolphin, thought extinct, ‘spotted’ in China

  1. Pingback: Chinese Crested Tern in danger | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Prehistoric Pacific marine mammals discoveries | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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