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Endangered Species: Chinese River Dolphin

written by: Darlene Zagata•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/31/2009

Many of earth's species are now endangered and facing extinction. Despite desperate conservation efforts some species continue to decline. For some species, such as the Chinese River Dolphin, time has run out.

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    The Chinese River Dolphin is the rarest species of marine mammals. Also known as the Yangtze Dolphin or Baiji, it is a freshwater dolphin. It is also one of the most endangered animals on earth. The Chinese River Dolphin is a graceful mammal that can grow to a length of eight feet and weigh up to five hundred pounds. Its body is bluish gray on the backside and white on the underside. The Chinese River Dolphin has a long, slightly upturned beak and smaller eyes than ocean dolphins.

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    Habitat and Diet

    The only known habitat of the Chinese River Dolphin is the Yangtze River in China. Their diet consists of a variety of freshwater fish. Chinese River Dolphins generally live in small groups. The eyesight of the Chinese River Dolphin is poor so they rely mostly upon echolocation to locate food as well as for navigation and communication.

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    Chinese River Dolphins breed in the first half of the year and give birth to a single offspring following a gestation period of ten to eleven months. Chinese River Dolphins generally reproduce approximately every two years. They have been known to have a life expectancy of up to twenty-five years.

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    In 2006, an expedition to the Yangtze River in China failed to find any Chinese River Dolphins in the river. The species was declared functionally extinct. This means that even if any of the marine mammals still survive they are doomed to extinction. Despite previous conservation efforts to save the rare species of dolphin, Chinese River Dolphins have failed to thrive in captivity and the small population continued to decline. It is very doubtful that any of these mammals survived and if so, scientists believe it would be unlikely for them to find each other to breed. In 2007, a sighting of a Chinese River Dolphin was reported. Whether the animal sighted was acutally a Chinese River Dolphin remains debatable. It is sad that conservation efforts could not help the Chinese River Dolphin to thrive. The loss of this rare marine mammal as well as any other species is truly tragic.

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