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The sad tale of Asian Baiji Chinese river dolphin extinction

Updated on September 19, 2012
The baiji that we will never see again
The baiji that we will never see again | Source

The Chinese River Dolphin history

The lovely look of a Chinese river dolphin also known as the baiji, well represented by an old Chinese legend describing the water mammal true identity in the past.

The story revealed that baiji dolphin used to be a princess and was drowned by her family because she had refused to marry a person she did not fall in love with.

Back in the old days, these Chinese dolphins also carried another nickname, “the Goddess of the Yangtze”. As a matter of fact, the baiji, a freshwater animal that closely related to those you can find in South East Asia’s Indus and Ganges rivers.

Other relative to this mammal can be found in the upper reaches of the great Amazon River. These river dolphins, one of those rare animals that own very little transformation in terms of the way they look in comparison to their ancestor’s appearances back in 20 million of years ago.

For centuries, the baiji river dolphins had been gifted because they never met any problem to adapt to their natural habitat.

For hundred of years ago, there were about thousands of baiji dolphins swam around and hunting for huge amount of fish in the river. The baiji never worried to face any predator, simply because there were not any.

Smiley baiji
Smiley baiji | Source

The baiji unique appearances

Probably the most distinctive feature that Chinese river dolphin famous for, none other than the long beak and the curvy look upward smiley mouth-line.

The rounded forehead and small eyes and high up on the head.

Most of river dolphins in Asia are blind, but these baiji dolphins were able to see despite their poor vision.

In overall, a baiji dolphin back’s color was bluish gray with grayish white on the belly. In other words, it was easy to identify which one Chinese baiji dolphin to other river dolphins outside China.

Scientists believe the way that these baiji dolphins look always associated with their smaller cousin, the less famous finless porpoise.

Chinese river dolphin swimming
Chinese river dolphin swimming | Source

The baiji Chinese river dolphin behavior

The river dolphin was perhaps a nocturnal, which means more active at night. The Chinese river dolphin was a quiet animal, swam around alone or in a group of six.

Scientist found the swimming pattern was somehow difficult to be recorded. Sometimes they were seen to swim in a slow pace, another time a sudden change of direction occurred while they swimming. The blow generated high pitch sound, similar to a sneeze.

The last diner
The last diner | Source

Natural habitat of baiji dolphins

The Chinese river dolphins used to be found along the lower and middle section of Yangtze river.

However over couple of decades ago, they can only be found within the downstream of Dongting Lake.

The Yangtze river dolphin was China’s national treasure, and the local authority had protected these baiji dolphins since 1975 before the extinction was announced in 2006.

The Baiji Dolphin habitat

Yangtze River, Nantong, Jiangsu, China:
Yangtze River, China

get directions

Could I be the last of my kind?
Could I be the last of my kind? | Source

The devastating baiji dolphin extinction news

In December 2006 announcement was made clearly none other than the Baiji dolphin extinction.

Years before the news, scientists and conservation activists had warned the decreasing number of population of Chinese river dolphin.

The Chinese baiji was far rarer than the famous panda bear but somehow conservation program failed to find ways stopping the decreasing number of these beloved Yangtze River dolphins.

In the 1940s there were still around 5000 to 6000 of baiji dolphins swam across 1700 kilometers from lower to middle part of Yangtze River.

The last sighting of a baiji was in 2004, but that was the last time for anyone to see the very existence of this beautiful animal.

The once pure Yangtze’s water was slowly contaminated with plastics, industrial waste, in addition to oil, due to increasing number of development and industrialization in China.

As the China’s economy grow even further soar above their competitors and so did the inevitable extinction of baiji dolphins turned into reality.

Once again human should take full responsibility over this unnecessary situation, and we don’t want that to happen again with other river dolphin species such as the finless porpoise.

Good bye....
Good bye.... | Source


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi Karma,I also love dolphins and KIDS READING! May I recnomemd Discovery Cove in Orlando, Fl. for a nice swim with the dolphins. It is a day my family will never forget. Check it out!

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      jpcmc , truly sad, these animals deserve to live in a more healthier environment... thank you for your comment

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      It's sad when animals die because of man's behavior. What more when it's the extinction of an entire species!

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      Ausseye, thank you and well said, there is no other way to express this sad situation, I hope this will inspire more people to be more aware that there wonderful creatures out there that need our help and protection for them to survive.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Greeie : A sad reflection of our care for those living around us. A well written and researched story that has left us pondering our demise. May the princess rest in peace and swim in the greater universe while human kind face their destiny.

    • greeneryday profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Some tropical country

      Mhatter99 , thank you so much glad that you're here...

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Fascinating and well written. thanks for the introduction.


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