A species of river dolphin known to the Yangtze River region of China was thought to have gone extinct a decade ago when scans around the area yielded no results. The extinction is blamed mostly on the construction of dams in the region.
Image Credit: AFP/Sixth Tone
Despite the claims of extinction, it has reportedly been spotted again by a team of 11 amateur investigators who conducted a recent expedition, according to the government-driven Chinese news source Sixth Tone.
According to the report, one of the dolphins is said to have jumped out of the water near one of the observation boats, just 100 meters away. The leader of the expedition, Song Qi, went as far as to say the first boat in the group saw the animal three separate times.
No photographs or visually-identifying evidence were ever released following the claims that the species had been spotted again, making this no more credible than a verbal claim, but nevertheless, the conservationists are fairly certain they know what they were looking at.
“I saw most of the body, and the second time around I saw its mouth and head. No other creature could jump out of the Yangtze like that,” Song Qi said in a statement to Sixth Tone. “All the eyewitnesses – which include fishermen – felt certain that it was a baiji.”
Baiji is the Chinese word for “white dolphin,” which non-coincidentally is the color of the Yangtze River dolphin.
Currently, experts are scouring through sonar data, which may provide audible evidence that it was what the team is suggesting. Yangtze River dolphins are said to have very strong sonar skills, so this could be their chance to prove its existence.
In terms of where the situation stands right now, there’s still no concrete evidence that what they saw was the ‘extinct’ Yangtze River dolphin, but if it was, that would be miraculous because it means it has went a decade without being detected.
Despite everything, even if it was a baiji, then its fate is probably still doomed due to its waning numbers and lack of repopulation in the wild. It’s sad, but very true.
Source: Sixth Tone