Porpoises in China

Porpoises on brink of extinction

At the end of 2006 it was estimated that there are about 1400 porpoises left living in China, with between 700 and 900 in the Yangtze, with about another 500 in Poyang and Dongting Lakes.

Finless porpoises, a rare type of toothed whale, may be even more endangered than previously thought.

A survey of finless porpoises in Asia has revealed there are two species, not one, and that they rarely intermingle.

More worrying, finless porpoises living in the freshwater of China’s Yangtze river are genetically unique, say scientists, who warn that greater efforts must be made to prevent these animals, numbering fewer than 1000, from following another Yangtze cetacean, the Baiji, to extinction.

Finless porpoise – Wikipedia

2007 population levels are less than half the 1997 levels, and the population is dropping at a rate of 7.3 per cent per year. Current conservation efforts were undertaken alongside those for the recently functionally extinct Baiji. In 1990 5 individuals were relocated to the Tian-e-Zhou Oxbow Nature Reserve and now a population of 28 currently inhabit the lake.[3]

Sand dredging has become a mainstay of local economic development in the last few years, and it is an important source of revenue in the region that borders Poyang Lake. But at the same time, high-density dredging projects have been the principal cause of the death of the local wildlife population.

Dredging makes the waters of the lake muddier, and the porpoises cannot see as far as they once could, and have to rely on their highly-developed sonar systems to avoid obstacles and look for food. Large ships enter and leave the lake at the rate of two a minute and such a high density of shipping means the porpoises have difficulty hearing their food, and also cannot swim freely from one bank to the other

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