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Yangtze river dolphin

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by patrick, 4 Apr 2006.

  1. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    for many years now i have followed the rapid demise of the yangtze river dolphin in china. i became very interested in river dolphins (that are exclusively freshwater) after seeing one in the ganges river in india. since then i have been lucky enough to have even swam amongst the pink ones that live in the amazon. unfortunately for the worlds river dolphins and other freshweater cetaceans, their habitats happen to be among the most polluted and economically important (for their respective countries) in the world. all are endangered and in need of serious conservation initiatives if we are to see them survive, however with china's baiji or yangtze river dolphin, the situation is so bad that it is probably bound to become extinct with maybe only <10 left in the entire yangtze river. if that.

    everyone agrees that the only chance of saving this species (and it is risky) is to remove all the remaining dolphins out of the yangtze and place them in a ox-bow lake that was created as a preserve for the dolphins. so far only one dolphin has ever been captured and released - it subsequently drowned in a net designed to keep it in the preserve (the net has since been replaced with walls).

    the situation angered some groups funding the project and they pulled out (much to my anger!) thus meaning that internal bickering amongst the NGO's that were working together have potentially put the nail in the coffin for this species!!

    i was resigned (as are most scientists) to the fact that the baiji was going to become extinct in the next couple of years. this would mean it would become the first cetacean to ever go extinct at the hands of humans.

    depressing.

    anyhow, the other day i decided to see if any news on the topic had come in and i discovered this new website - which put a (albeit a teeny one) glimmer of hope in my life.....

    http://www.baiji.org/

    fingers crossed they get a move on.
     
  2. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    I saw a show a few weeks ago about performing animals. It showed that stupid man in Las Vegas who performs with tigers, the guy who was attacked and various other weird americans. But what was interesting was that there is an aquarium ( Singapore? Hong Kong?) that has five pink dolphins. I don't think they really mentioned the species but I got the impression that they were river dolphins. Would they be the pink dolphins you mention Patrick?
    Jai
     
  3. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    freshwater dolphins

    no. i know of the "pink" dolphins in the hong kong aquarium. these animals are a marine species, the indo-pacific Humpback dolphin, Sousa chinensis. these dolphins can be found in australian waters also but for some reason the population living in chinese waters are bright pink. i was talking of amazon river dolphins (aka boto) inia geoffrensis who are also bright pink in colouration.

    "true" river dolphin classification is a bit messy. they have traditionally been grouped together under the family platanistidae, though in reality despite their many morphological similarities they probably represent a case of convergent evolution and in fact may not be ralated to eachother at all. confusing matters more is the fact that one member of the "family" - the la plata river dolphin or franciscana, doesn't live in rivers at all! it inhabits coastal areas of south america.

    in addition to this, some authorities regard the physically and behaviourally identical indus and ganges river dolphins as subspecies of the same animal (though how these exclusively freshwater animals managed to habituate two unconnected river systems in pakistan and india scientists don't know).

    lastly the river dolphin "family" are not the only species of ceataceans that can be found in freshwater. exclusively freshwater populations of the usually marine, irrawaddy dolphins, tucuxi (which i also saw often in the amazon) and finnless poproise also exist.

    theses populations are sometimes regarded as seperate subspecies from their marine relatives.

    however you define them - freshwater cetaceans are among the most endangered animals on the planet and are becoming increasingly impossible to preserve. the amazon and orinoco rivers (the habitat of the amazon and tucuxi dolphins), the mekong (irrawaddy dolphin) the yangtze (finless porpise and yangtze dolphin) and the indus and ganges rivers (each with their respective species or subspecies) are among the most polluted, economically important, overfished and traffic-busy river systems in the world. hopefully, though the idea of enclosing the remaining dolphins into protected subsiduaries of the main river may have come too late for the yangtze dolphin - it may be usefull in preserving populations of the other 6 species of freshwater dolphins.

    lets hope...
     
  4. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    In Singapore we have 5 pink dolphins. As patrick mentioned, they are sousa chinensis, a marine species. A male was successfully born several years ago, but there has since been no more births.

    A local animal activist group is campaigning for their release back into the wild, but their efforts so far have been unsuccessful.
     
  5. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    personally, i am not very fond of keeping dolphins in captivity. like elephants, they require alot of space that really can't be provided. many species, such as orca's do appalingly badly in captivity - dying young etc..

    river dolphins - had it not been for their endangered status would actually make better candidates for captivity than marine species. not only would the aquarium have the convienience of keeping them in freshwater, but most species, especially the amazon dolphins, are well adapted to being in somewhat confined spaces. in the amazon, the entire forest seasonally floods and much of the plants are adapted to being underwater for part of the year. during this time the dolphins literally swim through the jungle, eating fish and even fruits that fall into the water. i have seen them in rediculously narrow bodies of water and apparently they can sometimes become trapped in very small lakes in the forest and have to wait there until the forest floods again. therefore you would think that they would do well in a confined aquarium, however of the many amazon river dolphins that have been captured for display - i believe only two males are left at an aweful aquarium in germany (another died a couple of years ago at a US zoo). apparently many suffered from not being provided with a shallow bank in which to sleep. unlike marine species, river dolphins do not swim and sleep at the same time. intead they swim into the shallows and lie with their blowhole above the surface. many zoos, not providing this, caused slow and painful deaths to their sleep depraved dolphins!!!

    there are plenty of people who want to import more captured dolphins from venezuela - so far though, the US government has fortunately been saying no.
     
    Last edited: 6 Apr 2006
  6. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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  7. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    im almost crying - yes me, its sad to think what humans have done to the rest of the world.

    but not much can be done to save them, china has a populatuio of something like 1.3 billion people, the only way to save anything there is for international efforts, and they go into china and do it.
    the onlt reason the panda is being saved, is china sees it can make money out of it- sad really, what yet goes undis covered in chinas forests, what will we NEVER know about.
     
    Last edited: 3 Dec 2006
  8. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    Zoo_Boy, you say some dumb **** sometimes, but that's just downright offensive!
     
  9. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    im sorry if i offended anyone, but tht how serious the problem is, i mean the plight of these animals, i have always got on better with animals ove people. i am sorry tht comment was to far
     
  10. ZooPro

    ZooPro Well-Known Member

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    Mate, I'd just keep quiet, and stop digging yourself even deeper into a hole.
     
  11. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    My opinion, is my opinion, i take my wildlife seriously.
     
  12. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    its extinct.

    TheStar.com - Rare Chinese dolphin declared extinct

    well thats that then. an absolute disgrace! i have been attentively monitoring the slow demise of this animal for many years and i think its devestating that this has been allowed to happen. in the past i have heavily critcised WDCS for pulling out all support for the proposed relocation plan. they emailed me citing their reasons for doing so and really it was a load of crap. by the time the project was re-booted it was way too late. but its not only them (i just thought it was odd the the whale and dolphin conservation society didn't actually support a project to save the world most endangered cetacean!!) - everyone failed here and of course the chinese government is very much the main culprit...

    in the end this one a perfect example of a whole lotta people talking conservation and not actually doing anything about it. they knew the numbers were at a critical point, they new that there was absolutely no way the dolphins could survive if left in the yangtze and they new that every year the tiny remnant population was crashing dramatically. so they talked about a proposed plan for what must have been close to a bloody decade, and the closest they ever came was drowing one dolphin in a net!

    a disgrace!
     
  13. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    In a way this is very much a turning point. The dolphin is the first large animal to become extinct since what, the thylacine? Other species have become extinct recently but they have tended to be small and relativly insigificant (to the genral population I'm saying. Little brown wrens, beetles, even brightly coloured frogs don't matter to most people - they do to me.)This is the first first cetacian, an important animal in an ecosystem and was important to a culture. What else has gone extinct in that river? What worries me is that it could be the first of a cascade of extinctions. There are a lot of species that are on the knife edge, teetering towards the end. Hunting of endangered whales is about to begin again who knows other irreperable damage is being done to our oceans.

    There is a lot to be grateful for. First world countries do have a better record for enviromental protection (let's hope a certain dam does NOT go ahead). But the booming economies of India and China are going to lead to some major damage if they don't so something soon. No one ion the Indian government seems to care about tigers anymore, their numbers are going down again. What of the Amur leopard and tiger? And so on.
    Patrick I mourn with you over the dolphin, let's hope that it is the only one we have to mourn for.
     
  14. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    on saving the yangtze and lessons learned...

    i wish i had the time to go back through my email accounts at this time and find my response from the WDCS, but i dont.

    basically however the WDCS, pulled their funds on a recovery program after a female baiji was captured alive ina fishermans net and realesed into the semi-natural preserve that had been created in an ox-bow of the yangtze. i imagine the plan was that should this female survive, then qi qi, the only other captive dolphin who just so happened to be male, would potentially be realeased in there two. however the WDCS put a load of conditions on their funding, including removing the also endangered finless porposes from the preserve for fear they would compete with and bully the baiji. they may also have ststed that they were unhappy with the netting barriers, they very thing that ended up killing the preseves sole dolphin inhabitant. whilst these may have been valid issues - indeed the dolphin did drown in the netting after a flood cased the waters to rise beyond the banks (i believe the netting was just a precautionary measure the oxbow was contained by safe mud banks on all sides) - i think pulling the plug on all funding was just another example of the sort of attitude that sealed the deal for the yangtze river dolphin. from what i am aware, after this the banks on the edge of the preserve were raised and a more secure environment created. but nobody went out and caught the remaining dolphins. years ticked away, Qi Qi died in captivity and by the time they organised getting the conservation and government groups to get over their differences and work together again. there was nothing left. not only did they miss their chance at saving the baiji - they missed it by close to a decade!!

    it'll be interesting to see if the extinction of the yangtze river dolphin will spearhead a bigger effort to save the worlds remaining freshwater cetaceans species the indus, ganges and amazon river dolphins and subspecies the amazon tucuxi, mekong irrawaddy dolphin and yangtze finless porpoise....

    ...somehow i feel the situation will get even worse for these guys before anything is done to make it better. i don't think a big lesson was learnt since nobody seemed to be noticing. at the moment most species are in a situation numbers wise, were the potential benifit of capture and relocation it is worth any potential risks to animals lives. the situation is much better in south america than asia. whilst not necessarily an acurate example, when in the amazon i saw boto and tucuxi (which look like a miniture bottlenose) on an almost daily basis. in india i saw ganges dolphins only twice and it was more than likely the same animal.

    lets hope they stop talking about it and actually do something this time. the asian species need to be preserved and contained in protected tributaries. the mekong, indus, yangtze and ganges are some of the most polluted and economically important rivers in the world. leaving the dolphins in the main river system is just not a viable option....
     
  15. Writhedhornbill

    Writhedhornbill Well-Known Member

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    There used to Be a Male Qui Qui in a chinese zoo. They found out most of the dolphins biology from him.