The Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), also known as the baiji, has lived in China’s Yangtze river for 20 million years. Ongoing degradation of its habitat caused by ship traffic, pollution, human land uses, unsustainable fishing and bycatch as well as lack of conservation measures, finally led to the declaration of becoming ‘possibly extinct’ by the IUCN (Smith et al. 2007). After a six week survey, organised by the Swiss baiji.org Foundation, no baiji specimen could be found any longer. During the expedition the population status of the likewise endemic Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis) was also estimated. The Yangtze finless porpoise is today in a comparable population state to the baiji a decade ago and the population is rapidly declining from approximately 2,550 in 1990 to approximately 1,200 in 2006 (Wang et al. 2007) with a medium decline of about 85 per annum. Still, the habitat quality is decreasing, and ex situ conservation measures like translocation of specimens into a semi-natural reserve and to the Aquarium of the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan has been successfully applied: The reserve’s population is steadily growing whilst in 2005 the first finless porpoise, and first freshwater cetacean ever, was born successfully in captivity. The baiji.org Foundation continues to support the Institute of Hydrobiology on various conservation efforts, and its formerly aim to prevent the baiji from extinction by applying ex situ conservation measures focused on the conservation of the finless porpoise and its habitat as well as other freshwater dolphins.
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