Aug. 29, 2007 — A creature believed to be the rare Chinese white dolphin has been sighted in the Yangtze river, an expert said Wednesday, renewing hope for a mammal recently declared as probably extinct.
Video footage by a resident of eastern Anhui province purportedly taken this month appears to show the critically endangered white dolphin, known in China as the "baiji", frolicking in its native Yangtze habitat, said Wang Ding, one of the world's leading authorities on the species.
"We cannot confirm it 100 percent but it looks pretty much like a baiji," Wang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told AFP.
Wang led a survey by scientists from around the world last year in search of the dolphin which came up empty, and he told AFP earlier this month the 20-million-year-old species was "likely extinct."
But he said the new sighting means there is hope.
"If there is one, then we have more there," he said.
The Anhui resident, Zeng Yujiang, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying he filmed the dolphin, easily identifiable by its long, tooth-filled snout and low dorsal, along the banks of China's longest river on August 19.
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Devastating pollution, illegal fishing and heavy cargo traffic on the Yangtze have been cited as key factors in the demise of the species.
Up to 5,000 baiji were believed to have lived in the Yangtze less than a century ago, according to the baiji.org website, a conservation group.