Scientists Join Hands to Seek the Last Yangtze River Dolphin
Headed by Dr. Wang Ding, Professor of Hydrobiology Institute of Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), experts from 6 countries (China, USA, UK, Switzerland, etc.) started their survey from Wuhan on Nov 6th to seek the last Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji) in the Yangtze River.
This “Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Expedition 2006” will first travel up to Yichang, and then down to Shanghai. The whole trip will last for 70 days and cover 3500 km. WWF, together with several other organizations, has supported this expedition.
The Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji) is the most endangered aquatic mammal only distributed in the Yangtze River. As “the Goddess of Yangtze”, the Baiji has even a longer history than the giant panda. In 1980s, there were about 400 Baiji in the Yangtze, but due to anthropocentric threats and habitat degradation, the population reduced to no more than 100 in late 1990s, and now it is hardly to see them in the river.
“It is expected that this expedition will collect the latest status data of the Baiji, and therefore help to develop a practical strategy and conservation actions to protect the Baijin and other dolphins such as the Finless Porpoise”, said Dr. ZHU Jiang, Pogramme Officer of WWF China’s Wuhan Office.
To save the freshwater dolphins from extinction, the Chinese government has carried out in-situ and ex-situ protection methods and conducted captive breeding practices. Both the successful breeding of Qiqi - the Baiji kept in captivity for 22 years (died a natural death in 2002), and successful natural reproduction of the Finless Porpoise in the dolphinarium, set historic records for captive breeding of the dolphins. There is no Baiji at the moment living in the Tian-e-zhou Baiji Nature Reserve, but the nature reserve succeeded to breed the Finless Porpoise in semi-natural conditions, a good example of ex-situ conservation of this species. The population of the Finless Porpoise in the nature reserve grows 28 individuals, as a result of introducing 5 individuals into the oxbow in 1990s.
Unfortunately the population of the Finless Porpoise in the Yangtze is also decreasing dramatically, from 2700 or so in late 1990’s to around 2000 now.
To address the anthropocentric threats and explore innovative approach for freshwater dolphin conservation, since 2002 WWF-HSBC Yangtze Program has selected Tian-e-zhou Oxbow as a demo site to promote dolphin conservation. After three years efforts and cooperation with local partners, the Program has successfully restored the seasonal water exchange between the oxbow with the Yangtze, helped local fishermen develop alternative livelihood so as to reduce their threats to the dolphin, assisted the local government to relocate fishermen out of the core area of Tian-e-zhou Baiji Nature Reserve, proposed to set up Hei-wa-wu Oxbow Nature Reserve for dolphin conservation. Based on these practices, WWF and CAS Hydrobiology Institute have also put forward the new strategy of protecting the oxbows in central Yangtze to safeguard dolphin’s home. Now WWF is working with all related partners to implement this strategy.
For more information, please contact:
Zhuang Shiguan, Press Officer, WWF China
Tel: 65227100－3286 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org