These dolphins have several notable characteristics. One is that is has a rather long beak, or rostrum, with many sharp teeth. Their eyes are very small, and they have poor vision. This does not matter much anyhow, since their environment is a muddy river. The dolphins rely on sending out echolocation clicks to navigate their surroundings and find their prey. They are usually uniformly gray in color, with their underside slightly lighter. The dorsal fin is low and triangular, and their pectoral fins are very broad and rounded, similar to a boat paddle.
As the most endangered cetacean, the baiji is found only in China's Yangtze River. Once, it was also found in the adjoining lakes Poyang and Donting, but the water levels are no longer high enough for them to live in. It was written about by Chinese authors almost 2,000 years ago. Back then, the river was clean and a beautiful home to the dolphins which may have been numbered in the thousands. Today, the home of the Chinese River Dolphin has changed dramatically.
The Yangtze River area is one of the world's most populated places on the planet, with 12% of the world's population living along it. Because of this, the dolphin is threatened. Their home has become polluted, overfished and overrun with boats, with many stretches of the river unaccessable to the dolphins due to damming of the waters.
It is in great danger of becoming extinct due to loss of habitat. They are one of the rarest animals in the world, with less than an estimated 150 individuals left. Sadly, the baiji may be extinct in anywhere from 25 to 100 years. There are plans now to help protect them such as captive breeding, though this may not be successful.
To find out more about this dolphin, visit the following sites:
last updated 7/21/00
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