Thursday, December 14, 2006

More news from China: Goodbye, Baiji!

A research carried out in the Yangtze river in China during the last weeks, which came to an end some days ago, suggests that the Yangtze River Dolphin (also known as Chinese River Dolphin or Baiji) is "with all probability" extinct. And the reasons are obvious:
  • Environmental poisoning, caused by the industries that throw their wastage to the river.
  • Boat navigation through the Yangtze, which sometimes causes crashes that pollute even more the water.
  • Overfishing, as since times of the Cultural Revolution some factories to produce bags made out of Baiji skin were established.
  • The construction of dams throughout the course of the river, from which the Three Gorges Dam, expected to be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world when it reaches full operation in 2009, could probably had the most significant impact in the Baiji's environment.
It is remarkable to say that some previous efforts were made to preserve the species in captivity. In a first attempt, some Chinese river dolphins were collected and transported to an aquarium in Wuhan to encourage their reproduction there. All of the captive dolphins found it difficult to adapt themselves to such life and they died shortly after their arrival to the centre. Another effort consisted of a plan to transport the remaining dolphins (as of June 2006) to the Tian-e-Zhou lake, not too far away from the Yiangtze. However, the lack of funds and time to perform this project made it impossible to save the Baiji that way as well.
But not all the environmental problems in the Yangtze find an end with the extinction of the Baiji. It is suspected that several other species living in such river, like the Chinese Paddlefish, could face the same fate in a short run because of the operation of the Three Gorges Dam, the excessive fishing, and the rapidly worsening quality of the water.
This recent extinction demonstrates once again how unsustainable is being the development of the world. A species that lived for perhaps 20 million years was just exterminated by humans in much less than that. What's next? Some "greener" measures have to be applied, and quick. Is it that the Natural Step will be the philosophy of the future? Any clue on this?


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