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Author Topic: Goodbye Baiji: Yangtse River dolphin slips into oblivion without fanfare?!?!?  (Read 4724 times)

Offline skaragrimson

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RIP: The Yangtse River Dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) ca. 26,000,000 BC to 2006 AD
As of last week the Yangtse River Dolphin, otherwise known as the Baiji, was declared officially extinct. It's finally happened and I feel physically sick, but sadly I can't say I'm at all surprised. The signs were everywhere. Chopped up in propellers, drowned in fishing nets, echolocation confused by shipping traffic, choked on human waste. The poor bastard wasn't even given a fighting chance. Near the end some heroic rescue efforts were made, but it seems nothing could stop the Baiji from slipping into oblivion. We've missed our last chance to see.... What saddens me the most is how little coverage this received. Did anyone see this on CNN or the even BBC? Surely this should have been a major issue, a cause celebre?!? It was a unique dolphin species for crying out loud, and everyone loves dolphins right?!?!? But no, somehow things just didn't come together this time. The major source of info. on the Baiji was a BLOG (see URL below) written by conservationists covering their last ditch efforts to find and rescue the last remaining animals. I read this over the past few months with increasing levels of horror and depression as it became all too obvious that the endeavour would end in failure. I was shocked to find that I was the first person to leave a posting on their BLOG and that was weeks after the effort began. It really astonished me at how few people had even heard of the Baiji... But maybe in this shallow, celebrity-obsessed world the gentle Baiji will be accorded a certain cachet as being the first cetacean to be driven to extinction directly by human activity.
Now it's easy to dismiss this as simply a 'Chinese Problem', indeed, that's just what I did on seeing first-hand the relentless exploitation and callous disregard for nature along the Yangtse. Very little money or effort was put into Baiji conservation until it was too late and even then finances were paltry. Ironically, most of the funds that did trickle in came from outside of China. Make no mistake; China is no longer a poor country (the Economist recently placed it as the 5th richest in the world), so this is really no longer an excuse. The Three Gorges Dam was only the final implacable straw for an otherwise tragically embattled species. Sadly, the Baiji was probably already damned long before the dam. Official attitudes also didn't help. For instance, while in China my attempts to look-up 'Baiji' online resulted in an automated net monitor repeatedly throwing me out of the search engine. In Chinese government circles it seemed that 'Baiji' was a taboo word along with 'democracy' and the 'BBC'. Such criticisms, while nevertheless valid, tend to miss the big picture. The loss of the Baiji shames us ALL by our indifference and hypocrisy. After all, development of the first world was characterised by irreparable extinction and deforestation so who are we to stand on our soapboxes? True, but with the benefit of hindsight, newly developing countries should surely learn from past mistakes and there must be a way to progress more gently? Such advice is however facile, because the real issue at the heart of this is: greed, desire, and ignorance. This is the fuel that feeds unsustainable growth and we are all guilty of it. In fact doubly so in the West because it's the methods and values of the Market conceived in our own backyards that we've been busy exporting to the rest of the world. These are in large part responsible for the sorry mess we now find ourselves in.
So what do we learn from this tragic story? Well, there are two basic responses: In the first we could just sink into depression and indolence (to my shame- pretty much what I've been doing) and in the second we could resign ourselves to not being able to prevent any of this and just live profligate, hedonistic lives. We follow either of these paths at our peril because therein lies our doom. There has to be another answer. I don't have any bright ideas yet and what I say will by now surely be passe. For starters we could stop pissing around with trivia be they material or 'spiritual'. We can certainly get by with a lot less 'stuff' in our lives: do we really need that 40' Plasma screen TV or remote controlled Dalek? Educating ourselves about what's going on the world will also help- that way something like the extinction of the Baiji won't at least go unnoticed. Governments and people of influence should also get exercised by real issues like global warming and environmental degradation. We need to somehow find an edifying morality separate from, and unconstrained by the dogma of conventional religion. Individuals should be willing to make sacrifices not for spiritual brownie points or because a coercive god threatens us with hellfire, but because it's for the good of society and the world as a whole. I'm being hopelessly naive and idealistic I know, but maybe that's what it will take to save the world.
On a final melancholic note I'd recommend you take a look at newbielink: [nonactive] and if hearing a recording of the Baiji's plaintive cries doesn't move you to tears then I fear we're all doomed.
I feel physically sick to have seen something like this happen in our lifetime and you can be sure it won't be the last time we see this either. Even if we rally our efforts we'd better brace ourselves for a very sad and depressing century.


Offline neilep

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I saw this on the news  (BBC) too and I share your disdain in how little coverage it got....but primarily how awful I felt to know that that we are down one more species of Dolphin.

Thanks for the link..I will check it now.

Offline Karen W.

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It truly is disheartening that this has happened and it sadens me also that such a lovely creature has past and that our children will not to be able to view these beauties again!

Offline ukmicky

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