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Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
WDC's Ed Fox, Chris Butler-Stroud and Carla Boreham take a message from the ocean to parliament

Taking a message from the ocean to parliament

It's a sad fact that whales and dolphins don't vote in human elections, but I...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Tokitae in captivity

Talking to TUI – will they stop supporting whale and dolphin captivity?

Last Thursday I travelled to Berlin for a long-anticipated meeting with TUI senior executives. I...

Earth Day Q&A with Waipapa Bay Wines’ marketing director, Fran Draper

We've been partnered with Waipapa Bay Wines since 2019 so for this year's Earth Day,...

Number of species of cetacean now extinct 2 (?) – China 0

Despite being declared a Chinese “national treasure” and being protected since 1975, the world looked on in sorrow when the baiji (otherwise known as the Yangtze river dolphin) was declared extinct in 2007. The baiji, the first species of cetacean to become extinct at the hands of mankind but sadly, very likely not the last. 

With the baiji gone, only one species of cetacean is now found in the Yangtze River, the finless porpoise. Although currently listed as a sub-species of the narrow-ridged finless porpoise, the Yangtze finless porpoise (N. a. asiaeorientalis) is the only freshwater porpoise in the world and some scientists believe it should in fact be considered a species in its own right. 

As with the baiji, the major threats facing these animals are incidental mortality in fishing gear, vessel strikes, pollution and industrial development, and as with the baiji, unless immediate action is taken by the Chinese Government, they too will become extinct before long.

In recent years there has been a massive and rapid decline in their number, a crash of approximately 52% between 1991 and 2006, and unfortunately the steady decline is continuing, which has led the IUCN to upgrade the Yangtze finless porpoise to Critically Endangered – one step away from extinct.

What makes this even more depressing is that in the years that China have sat back and watched their endemic wild species disappear and decline, dolphinariums have increased at an alarming rate. In the past 8 years, 39 marine parks have opened their doors, and between them they have over 315 animals in captivity – 72 beluga whales and 243 other individuals of various dolphin and porpoise species – the majority of which have been taken from the wild, ripped from their families to entertain the very people who did nothing to save their wild counterparts.

And if that’s not bad enough – some are citing that the only way to “save” the Yangtze finless porpoise will be to remove them from the wild and place them in captive breeding facilities. A very sad state of affairs as you can almost guarantee that they will never see the wild again – and especially not if China don’t take steps to clean up their existing habitat and reduce the threats they face.

How many more species need to go extinct before Governments wake up and realise that steps need to be taken, and now, or we’ll continue to lose species after species. New zealand are you listening? Will the New Zealand dolphin (includes both the Hector’s and Maui’s dolphin) be next? 

About Nicola Hodgins

Policy Manager at WDC