So long, and thanks for all the handbags
November 30, 2006 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Death of a goddess Another first for China? The yangtze dolphin may be the first cetacean to be made extinct by man. Mentioned by Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine in 'Last Chance to See' in 1989 when there were still sightings, the mammal may now be extinct. Two weeks into an international expedition to locate the last dolphins there have been no sightings. Fresh water porpoises seem to be incompatible with modern China's economic boom and accompanying environmental destruction. Attempts at conservation seem to be coming a bit late for this 20 million year old species.
posted by asok (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Fresh water porpoises seem to be incompatible with modern China's economic boom

Fresh water itself is becoming hard to find in China:
Water from a reservoir that serves as Beijing's fourth-biggest source of drinking water is unfit even for irrigation, state media reported on Tuesday, underlining the gravity of China's water pollution problem. [...]

The official China Daily last week cited an unnamed official as saying that two-thirds of Chinese cities face water shortages, in part because large amounts of untreated waste water are pumped directly into lakes and rivers.
posted by pracowity at 5:59 AM on November 30, 2006


.

I hope they find at least one two.

I really loved Adams' book, and the part about these dolphins moved me the most. In the book, Adams' party perform underwater recordings to try to sense what life must be like for a creature that depends on echolocation to navigate. Their description of the steady, grinding, overpowering noise that is conducted easily through the waters of the Yangtze was very depressing.
posted by hermitosis at 6:20 AM on November 30, 2006


I agree, hermitosis. Adam's was a devoted conservationist.

This is so sad. I hate hearing about the passing of any species.
posted by agregoli at 6:56 AM on November 30, 2006


So long, and thanks for all the fish.
posted by tadellin at 6:57 AM on November 30, 2006


Dear god, that's sad.
posted by dazed_one at 7:21 AM on November 30, 2006


Wtf, does this mean no more dolphin in my canned tuna?
posted by Bravocharlie at 7:31 AM on November 30, 2006


So long, thanks for the fish. Redux.
posted by sfts2 at 7:42 AM on November 30, 2006


> Fresh water itself is becoming hard to find in China:

As a citizen of a country with a relative abundance of fresh water, news like this makes me exceedingly nervous.

> The yangtze dolphin may be the first cetacean to be made extinct by man

As a citizen of Earth, news like this makes me exceedingly sad.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:46 AM on November 30, 2006


The last time I had Mu Shu Dolphin it tasted like silt and benzene anyways.

Thanks for everything Fripper. We'll miss you.
posted by isopraxis at 9:04 AM on November 30, 2006


Sad but excellent post. Thank you, asok.
posted by Lynsey at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2006


I love the smell of progress in the morning.
posted by algreer at 9:29 AM on November 30, 2006


dont blame the chinese, humans has been doing this sort of thing for someitme now. . .
posted by j-urb at 9:34 AM on November 30, 2006


Maybe word is starting to get around.
posted by pracowity at 9:35 AM on November 30, 2006


Sorry, Bravocharlie.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2006


See this related MeFi Project.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2006


.
posted by of strange foe at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2006


Meh. Dolphins die. Dry your eyes, Princess, and have a can of harden up.

/denial
posted by Sparx at 12:13 PM on November 30, 2006


Our planet is going through the biggest extinction crisis since life evolved. Bigger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. Check out the IUCN Red List. (wp)

Percent of species in major groups threatened with extinction:
23% Vertebrates
53% Invertebrates
70% Plants
40% Lichens/Fungi

A very good elucidation of how far up the creek we are is E. O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life (Amazon)
posted by algreer at 1:33 PM on November 30, 2006


Sorry, I didn't see that project link before K A C or I would have included it. The principal link is to baiji.org.

There is a recording of Adams reading the whole of Last Chance to See.

Thanks for the excellent links, pracowity.

We are very busy sawing off the branch we are sitting on, like some cartoon idiot, so we don't have time to look at your stats algreer.
posted by asok at 3:09 PM on November 30, 2006


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posted by porpoise at 3:35 PM on November 30, 2006


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posted by Jess the Mess at 5:01 PM on November 30, 2006


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posted by kyrademon at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2006


I'm on the expedition right now; We are about 3/4 done with the trip, having just arrived in Shanghai and we have not seen any Baiji yet, so everybody is a little depressed. There is some hope that we will see them on the last leg of the trip back up the river because the weather has been very bad the last two weeks and that was in areas that in the past were Baiji "hotspots." So there is some chance that we may have missed a few animals.

However the future for the Baji looks very dire. The commercial use of the Yangtze is astounding in it's scale. We counted over 1000 boats involved in sand dredging in Poyang lake alone, and after we passed Nanjing the banks of the river are one continuous industrial water front. And this isn't getting into all the illegal fishing practices we have observed, (rolling hooks, electro fishing, "concussion" fishing). If it keeps going at this rate the whole river will be dead in a couple decades.

Just one point, the link to "freshwater porpoises" is a bit misleading. River dolphins are not porpoises, which are a separate cetacean family, (River Dolphins themselves are not true dolphins). In fact there is a porpoise living in the Yangtze, The Finless Porpoise, it is the only freshwater porpoise in the world. It is doing much better than the Baiji, with a population probably around 1000, but this population has been in deep decline in recent years and people are now talking about how the Finless Porpoise could become the second Baiji.
posted by afu at 8:56 PM on November 30, 2006 [4 favorites]


In May of 2005 while traveling up the Yangtzee I was actually told I could purchase river dolphin to eat if I really wanted it. As a Floridian that regularly sees dolphins while driving over the bay in Tampa my first reaction was to punch the person offering.

That sort of sums up my experience traveling in the interior of China. Rednecks aren't unique to just the back waters of the US of A.
posted by photoslob at 12:35 AM on December 1, 2006


Nice race we are a part of ... Let's face it - they had it right in the matrix. humans (at least in our current primitive state) are a terminal cancer for the planet earth and all its other species as we know it .... I mean.... it's pretty depressing but lets face it.
posted by specialk420 at 12:51 AM on December 1, 2006


Thanks afu.
posted by asok at 2:48 AM on December 1, 2006


If it keeps going at this rate the whole river will be dead in a couple decades.

Go, free marketeers!
posted by pracowity at 7:38 AM on December 1, 2006


afu writes "I'm on the expedition right now; "

I love Metafilter!
posted by Mitheral at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2006


Update.
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2006


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