Baiji, also known as the “Goddess of the Yangtze,” a rare dolphin species, has now been officially declared as extinct.
Found exclusively in the Yangtze River in China, Baiji, also known as the ‘Goddess of the Yangtze,’ a rare dolphin species, is one of the notable victims of human intrusion and climate change. It is the world’s rarest and most threatened among the cetacean species. It was believed to bring fortune to the person who spotted it.
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The species had been the topic of discussion since 2006 when it created quite a buzz for being on the brink of extinction. Baiji has now been officially declared extinct.
One of the most glaring factors that led to its extinction is overfishing. Not only did it make it difficult for Baijis to hunt for prey, but also led to the dolphins drowning after getting entangled in fishing gear such as hook lines and fishing nets. Shipping traffic on the Yangtze River, which is one of the main economic trade arteries in China, also posed a big threat to Baiji’s population. Poor-sighted dolphins used to collide with ships and their propellers and get badly injured, resulting in their death.
Samuel Turvey, a conservationist who spent more than two decades tracking down the now extinct fish in China, in an interview with CNN, said, “The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, was this unique and beautiful creature, there was nothing quite like it. Its demise was more than just another species tragedy, it was a huge loss of river diversity in terms of how unique it was and left huge holes in the ecosystem.”
According to Samuel, the last legit sighting was in 2002 when a wild baiji was photographed. After that, all the sightings were alleged but never proven, including the latest claim emerging in 2016.
The fate of the Yangtze River dolphin has the researchers and conservationists concerned for other rare, native species of Yangtze, the third longest river in China. Worsening climate change and extreme weather conditions are adding another layer to the dire situation.
China is currently grappling with the worst heatwave on record. The soaring temperatures and the drought have a devastating effect on the rivers in China, including the Yangtze River. Many of the species, rare and unknown, may be facing a silent extinction, as we speak, experts warn.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)