The last Bajii dolphin was seen in 2004
©Joan Lansberry, December 2006

Last week, a six-week expedition in which scientists from six nations desperately searched the Yangtze in vain ended. This very shy and graceful freshwater dolphin, with a rather stocky body roughly the size of an adult human, is the first large mammal brought to extinction as a result of human destruction. It was bluish-grey in colour becoming whitish on the underside, but seemed white or greyish from a distance. In common with other river dolphins, it had a very long, narrow beak with a slightly upturned tip, and small eyes placed high up on the face. They called her the Goddess of the Yangtze.

These are the alarming facts:

"In the beginning of the 1980s the Yangtze still had around 400 Baiji cavorting in its waters. However, the river dolphin became a victim of China’s rapidly growing economy. A 1997 survey still showed 13 confirmed sightings. The last confirmed sighting of a Baiji was in September 2004."

Just twenty five years ago, there was still hope. How many species are like that now? Still with just a thread of hope? Will we learn in time? Can we save them in time?

I mourn the loss of this beautiful species and decry what mankind has done. May we all wake up to the results of our actions and may change happen to preserve more wildlife.