An animal native only to China. Baiji is the Chinese name for the mostly-blind dolphins that have been found on the Yangzi, which is a freshwater river, from the cities of Yichang to Shanghai. Before the twentieth century, they also lived in a few large freshwater lakes until the water level lowered too much to continue being healthy abodes for the dolphins, and so a fairly large number of an already rare animal had died out.
Since then, their numbers have dramatically depleted with each decade. Though they numbered in the hundreds in the 1980s, they were only seen a couple tens of times during the 90s, and remember, this is one of the busiest rivers in the world with boats going up- and downstream all the time.
These dolphins and their rather extreme endangerment were topics my friend SW contributed to my Scavenger List, and since I have a couple of trips coming up that include a venture on or around the Yangzi, I decided recently to look into these dolphins and figure out where I could find them with the hope of actually seeing one.
Unfortunately, it appears I won't be able see one, whether in their natural habitat or in captivity, according to baiji.org and others that I've found that say basically the same thing.
Basically, just a little over a month ago, a six-week search on the part of a team of scientists from six countries with the financial backing of companies and parks such as Canon, Anheuser-Busch, SeaWorld, and the Ocean Park Foundation of Hong Kong ended with the conclusion that these unique animals almost certainly no longer exist, with the last recorded sighting around three years ago.
But, why? What happened?
Oh, global warming, then?
No. Noise, ignorance, extremely late mobilization of conservation efforts and methods partially due to time wasted in arguing about conservation efforts and methods, and, possibly, the Three Gorges Dam.
I was a bit unsure, but now I am not so fond of this dam...
Whoa, explain all that!
Will do so, gladly.
Since the dolphins were mostly blind, they had to rely on sound to survive. Because they were literally "deafened" by progress and activity, they couldn't hear where their food was or that they were about to swim into the propellers of a boat.
They were also caught up in fishermen's nets, and though the baiji was considered the goddess of the Yangzi, many fishermen had no idea what they caught and probably put the dolphin in the hold with the rest of the catch as opposed to releasing it back into the river.
Eventually someone realized that something needed to be done but no one could agree on whether leaving them alone in the wild or trying to breed them in captivity was the better course of action. Mostly all they did was part of the panda method; try to inform people, including fishermen, about these dolphins, which was good though the panda was never in danger of being replaced in people's affections.
And as for the dam... Even its construction is changing the river.
There's a slim chance though that they still exist, and a slim chance is still a chance.
Well, what can you do?
I'm keeping them on my Scavenger List.
Um, okay, but then how can you fulfill that portion of it if they allegedly no longer exist?
ONE. Learn about it, discuss it, and then spread the news. Which I've just done.
TWO. Donate. To a reliable institution, as well as in regards to the conservation of Yangzi's finless porpoise that is also very quickly dying out. This will happen when I'm back in the US and actually have job.
THREE. Take my business to the institutions that supported and still support the conservation efforts. When Mom and I go to Hong Kong to visit Mickey Mouse, I hope to also go to Ocean Park, which hopefully has more information on the dolphins.
FOUR. Visit the Island of the Pink Dolphins. In other words, tied in with what was said above, visit Hong Kong and go on a small boat ride (http://www.hkdolphinwatch.com/) to visit the also endangered pink dolphins in their natural habitat. Many of the proceeds go their conservation, which is actually succeeding. SW, I hope you don't mind pink!
So, that's the plan!
The information above, by the way, was mostly from baiji.org: