Search for baiji

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Chinese scientists said they will continue to search for the rare white-flag (baiji) dolphin although it is possibly extinct after a 38-day search failed to find any in the Yangtze River.

Wang Ding, head of a team of scientists that concluded their fruitless search on Wednesday, said the efforts to search for, and protect, the dolphin should continue as there might be some still around.

“We will try every effort to save them as long as they are not announced to be extinct,” said Wang, who is vice-director of the hydrobiology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wang said the monitoring of hot spots and small-scale searches will continue.

“The 3,400-km expedition covered only the main section of the Yangtze River and the scientists searched for the dolphins only 8 hours a day, which means some might have been missed,” said Wei Zhuo, an engineer from the institute.

Wang and his colleagues insisted it was still too early to say the dolphin is extinct after some foreign experts said that the dolphin is “functionally extinct.”

The baiji, unique to the Yangtze River, is listed as one of the 12 most endangered species in the world. Its population dropped to below 150 in the early 1990s from around 400 a decade earlier.

Before the search, scientists estimated there would be no more than 50 dolphins in the river, a prediction that appears wildly optimistic in hindsight.

If the white-flag dolphin is extinct, it will be the first cetacean to vanish as a result of human activity as it is on the top of food chain in Yangtze River and has no natural enemy, according to Wang.

The mammals share the river with ships, towboats and fishing vessels, as the Yangtze River has developed into China’s busiest inland waterway.

Source: China Daily