Species: Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: Once found in much of the Yangtze river, an intensive search in 2006 yielded no results and this species may now be extinct.
The baiji is probably the rarest cetacean in existence. This river dolphin is shy and graceful. Roughly the size of a human, this pale dolphin has become the source of legends and has been named the “Goddess of the Yangtze”. Mostly active during the night, these dolphins tend to live in small groups of three to four and feed on a wide range of freshwater fish. Like other river dolphins inhabiting muddy waters, the baiji has tiny, barely functional eyes and hunts by echolocation.
The Yangtze River is one of the world’s busiest waterways and, with over 400 million people living within the river’s catchment area, is under huge pressure from humans. Getting caught as by-catch is a big problem and fishing methods using electricity kill dolphins. Pollution, boat traffic and dam construction also contributed to this species decline. Sadly, the baiji may be the first dolphin to become extinct in modern times as a result of human activities.
Find out more information on the baiji on the Edge of Existence website.
Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher