BAIJI (Lipotes vexillifer) ©baiji.org
Home: China (Yangtze River)
Size: Weight: 135 - 230 kg (300 - 510 lb). Length: up to 2.5 m (8.2’).
The Baiji is a freshwater dolphin that was found only in the Yangtze River in China. The creature has been given the nickname “Goddess of the Yangtze.”
The Baiji population declined drastically in recent decades as China’s industrialization has made heavy use of the Yangtze River for fishing, transportation, and hydroelectricity. Efforts were made to conserve the species, but a late 2006 expedition failed to find any of the dolphins in the river. Organizers declared the Baiji “functionally extinct” and it became the first aquatic mammal species to become extinct since the demise of the Japanese Sea Lion and the Caribbean Monk Seal in the 1950s. It is also the first recorded extinction of a well-studied cetacean species.
In the 1950s, the population was estimated at 6,000 animals, but it declined rapidly over the subsequent five decades. Only a few hundred were left by 1970 and the number dropped down to 400 by the 1980s and then to 13 in 1997, when a full-fledged search was conducted. The last known living baiji was Qi, who died in 2002. With the extinction of the Chinese River Dolphin there remains only 4 living species of river dolphin.
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