The functionally extinct river dolphin known as the ‘goddess of the Yangtze’ has been spotted by conservationists.
The baiji dolphin was declared extinct a decade ago after gracing Asia’s longest river for 20 million years, the Guardian reports.
An amateur expedition team believe they caught a rare glimpse of the freshwater mammal last week near the city of Wuhu in Anhui province.
The leader of the expedition said:
No other creature could jump out of the Yangtze like that.
All the eyewitnesses – which include fishermen – felt certain that it was a baiji.
The narrow-snouted dolphin has become a symbol of China’s devastating environmental damage resulting from their rapid industrial development.
Dam-building, over-fishing, pollution and boat traffic meant that by the millennium, only 13 baiji’s remained in Asia’s longest river.
The Yangtze was once regarded as the Amazon of the East and the ecosystem was once home to two species of rhinoceros, elephants, gibbons and giant pandas. All of which have now disappeared.
Turvey, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London, who took part in the unsuccessful 2006 baiji search mission, said it was unlikely the sighting was a baiji.
Extreme claims for the possible survival of probably extinct species require robust proof, and while I would deeply love there to be strong evidence that the baiji is not extinct, this isn’t it.
Instead he recommended that conservation efforts turn to the finless porpoise which is critically endangered.