China: Baiji Dolphin May Not Be Extinct

The baiji, a freshwater dolphin that is believed to be extinct may still be living in the only river that it’s found. The dolphins, which only live in China’s Yangtze River, were declared functionally extinct ten years ago when scientists searched and didn’t find any of them living in the river. The last documented sighting of the dolphin was back in 2002. But there might be good news though.

An expedition team says it saw the dolphin in an area of the river near the city of Wuhu, which sits on the southeast bank of the Yangtze River. In 2006, scientists searched in the river for six weeks before the dolphin was declared extinct.

Song Qi, a member of the expedition team, saw the dolphin during a search that began last month. He says that all of the eyewitnesses felt certain that it was a baiji.

The baiji river dolphin, which can only be found in the Yangtze River, has been described as a very shy dolphin. This made it very difficult for them to be spotted by scientists. The number of baiji dolphins quickly decreased and it is said to be the first dolphin species to become extinct. Estimates say there were about 6,000 baiji dolphins living in the Yangtze River in the 1950s.

Song also spoke to The Guardian that the sighting happened during a seven day search mission in the river. The team reportedly saw the baiji dolphin at around 9:20 a.m. on October 4.

The sighting has not been confirmed because the team does not have any images that can help identify if it’s a baiji dolphin. It’s been 14 years since the last sighting of the baiji dolphin and it was declared functionally extinct just four years after that.

Hunting and overfishing are believed to be some of the main factors that led to the decrease of the baiji dolphin population. Song also said that local fishermen, who also saw it, were 100 percent certain it was the baiji dolphin. Song also plans to search the river again next year to confirm that the baiji dolphin is not extinct.

The last confirmed sighting happened in 2002 and while there have been a few more since the dolphin was declared extinct in 2006, they have not been confirmed.