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Chinese River Dolphin (Baiji)
Scientific Name: Lipotes vexillifer
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Chinese River Dolphin Description
You may not be familiar with the Chinese River Dolphin, commonly known as the Baiji. They are a species that may or may not still be around due to the fact that we haven’t been able to find them but there are still claims that they have been seen. They are medium sized, with a weight of about 350 pounds for the females and 500 pounds for the males. The females are smaller in length too with a size of about 6 feet compared to 8 feet for the females.
They have coloring that is very similar to other species of dolphins. They are light blue and light gray. They have a white or light cream color to the underside of the body. You will notice some unique things about their physical looks too. They have a long nose that is thin and that also turns up at the end. They also feature a lower fin that has a triangle shape to it.
Chinese River Dolphin Anatomy
They have a design to their body that makes it simple enough for them to get around in the water. They can swim fast should they need to but usually aren’t moving very fast. They are very intelligent animals and are known to be able to problem solve as well as to adapt to their environment. They don’t have the ability to perform all of the different acrobatics though like other species. This is due to the way in which their bodies are designed.
They don’t see very well at all, and many experts would go as far as to say they are actually blind. However, they are able to make up for this through the use of their sonar abilities. This allows them to feel vibrations that tell them where objects are around them. This same process is what allows them to easily find their food sources out there in the wild.
Chinese River Dolphin Evolution
We don’t know for sure how the Chinese River Dolphin evolved though and that is something we still need to investigate further. It is believed that they evolved about 5 million years ago. Yet there is evidence to link dolphins to a time more than 25 million years ago. How this all fits together isn’t fully understood yet. The Chinese are very well known for their folklore, and you will find they have their own stories about how this dolphin evolved. They include maidens that didn’t want to be forced to marry and other human elements.
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Chinese River Dolphin Behavior
Due to the fact that we aren’t finding these dolphins we don’t have too much information about their behaviors. We do know that they can live in pods that are up to 16 in membership. They are very social animals and they do well with each other as well as other species of dolphins. They also seem to be very curious about humans, interacting with them but not being a danger to them in any way.
They communicate using a variety of different sounds. They include both clicks and whistles. These forms of communication are what all species of dolphins use to interact with each other. It is believed that the overall structure of the communication is the same, but that a great deal of the lingo can be different based upon the specifics.
Chinese River Dolphin Habitat
For any Chinese River Dolphins out there that may still exist. They would have to be located in the Yangtze River. This is the only place in China or the world in fact that they have ever been identified. There have been many close calls over the years that they may be extinct. This occurred in the 1950’s, 1980’s, and 2000’s. We are hoping that they do still exist out there and that we will be able to confirm that one day in the near future.
They would be living on bodies of fresh water. There have been some very in depth expeditions in the past several years to try to find them. They haven’t been successful but many experts feel that we shouldn’t give up on them. The Chinese River Dolphin is known to survive in places that are hard to find. That means that they could be doing just fine but in small numbers. We just haven’t been able to successfully identify them yet.
The Chinese though do make it very hard for us to find all this out. The government there doesn’t welcome researchers from other countries coming in to look for these dolphins. By the same token though they don’t seem concerned with protecting them or with having their own researches dig deeper into the subject. As a result things are definitely uncertain for them as well as if they have any future at all. It may be too late for them but hopefully that is a theory which will be proven wrong.
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Chinese River Dolphin Feeding Habits
The Chinese River dolphin has teeth but they don’t use them to eat. Instead they consume small and medium sized prey that they are able to easily swallow. They use their ability to pick up vibrations to successfully find these sources of food. This allows them to know the direction that prey is moving as well as how far it happens to be from them. Some common sources of food include fish, squid, eel, and various crustaceans.
Chinese River Dolphin Reproduction
It is very likely that these dolphins would engage in the reproduction process the same way as other species. This would include the males calling out loudly to find the females. Their sounds to each other would attract them. Many dolphins court by touching and playing in the water so this could be part of the process as well.
It isn’t known how long a female Chinese River Dolphin would need to carry young before it was born. It could range from as little as 6 months or be as long as 12 months though. It is known that they take good care of the young in their pods. It is also known that the mother’s body produces milk for the young to enjoy and to get their nutrition from.
Chinese River Dolphin Predators
There aren’t too many predators for the Chinese River Dolphins. They would only have occasional problems with predators such as sharks and Killer Whales due to the fact that they live in fresh water. However, they problems out there for them are due to sharing that same water with humans. It is no secret that this particular river has very high levels of pollution associated with it.
They have long had a battle with Chinese fishermen too. These individuals work hard to get all they can capture into their nets. It is believed that they may have hunted the Chinese River Dolphins in very large numbers to prevent them from being able to consume so many fish. Others have been killed when boats that people use for their enjoyment on the water collide with them.
Hopefully we will find that some Chinese River Dolphins do still exist out there. However, it has been about 7 years since the last confirmed sighting of them. Even if they do remain the question is how many of them could there be. Is it possible that changes can be made to give them a chance at a good number again?