Baiji

The Baiji is a now extinct species of river dolphin that lived exclusively in the Yangtze River in China. The Baiji or Goddess of the Yangtze was known by a number of different names such as Yangtze Dolphin, Chinese River Dolphin, Whitefin Dolphin and the Yangtze River Dolphin. Although the Baiji is currently believed to be extinct there is a possibility that a handful are alive within captivity although this is not known for sure.

Conservation programs were underway to protect the Baiji which was suffering due to the industrial growth of China where the Yangtze River was becoming used more frequently for transportation, fish and hydro-electricity programs. Sadly the conservation efforts proved to be too little too late as an expedition in 2006 encounters not one Baiji.

baiji1 Baiji
Baiji - simpler times
Baiji - simpler times

There have been several unconfirmed reports of the Baiji still being alive within the Yangtze River however it is thought that if this is the case there would only be a handful who are probably of mature age. This makes the Baiji the first species of aquatic mammal to gone truly extinct sine the 1950’s.

Humans are without a doubt the main reason for the extinction of the Baiji. Whether the Baiji was being hunted for food, caught in fishing nets or being killed my electric fishing and collisions with boats the finger still points at humans.

baiji2 Baiji
Baiji caught in a fishing net
Baiji caught in a fishing net

The Baiji were an incredible species and were masters on sonar navigation who could reach almost 40mph if under threat. The Baiji usually gave birth every 2 years often birthing just one calf after a gestation period of almost a year. They were thought to breed thought the first half of the year and it was known that the prime calf season was between February and April.

The Baiji were thought to have a lifespan of around 25 years with females reaching sexual maturity at the age of 6 and the males reaching sexual maturity slight earlier at the age of four. The females of the species were the larger, but not by much. Females could grow to around 8 feet in length compared to males who usually grew to between 7 and 7.5 feet.

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