Friday, December 15, 2006

two Chinese dolphin stories, one good, one bad

This week there were two science stories about dolphins in China. In one case, a freshwater river dolphin called the baiji, which has long been endangered due to industrial pollution and habitat pressure from humans, has been declared extinct by a multinational survey team.
The small, nearly blind white dolphin, also known as the baiji, was nicknamed "the goddess of the Yangtze."

"It's possible that we missed one or two animals [during the search], but we can say the baiji is functionally extinct," August Pfluger, a Swiss economist-turned-naturalist who financed the expedition, said... If Pfluger's team is correct, the baiji will be the first large aquatic mammal to have gone extinct since hunting and overfishing killed off the Caribbean monk seal in the 1950s.
Sad news. There aren't many river dolphins left, and they're all severely endangered. On the other hand, people can save dolphins too. The tallest person in the world, a seven-foot nine-inch Chinese man, was recently asked to help save a captive dolphin who accidentally ate some shards of plastic. They first had tried using tools to reach into the dolphin's stomach, but its muscles clenched up when they stuck the metal things down its throat. (Wouldn't yours?) So the man, with his long gangly arms, reached down the throat of the dolphin, pulled out the plastic, and saved the day. National Geographic has photos here.

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