I love animals. I love every single species irrespective of how un-photogenic they are or how reviled they are by society at large. I love centipedes, jellyfish, squids - the most touching encounter I ever had with an animal was with a sea urchin. It always pisses me off that many other people have such a low tolerance for these fascinating, charming animals and yet you show these same people a tiger or a dolphin and suddenly they start babbling on like they want to go to bed with it. Noone really cares about the imminent extinction of the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish. Dolphins on the other hand, enjoy significantly better P.R. The high profile status of dolphins was, unfortunately, not enough to prevent the extinction of the Yangtze River Dolphin, Lipotes vexillifer (or 'Baiji') of China. An international team recently conducted a comprehensive survey of the Baiji's habitat and have concluded that the river dolphin is extinct. The Baiji was an unusual animal, having evolved in isolation for about 20 million years. Rivers are muddy places with virtually no visibility, a condition which resulted in the highly developed sonar adaptations the almost blind Baijis used for catching fish. However, the constant boat traffic of The Yangtze River interfered with the Baiji's sonar so much that for most of the time it was rendered sonically 'blind'. The reckless activities of humans using destructive and indiscriminate fishing techniques were a major cause of the dolphins' decline. And now they're all dead, the first cetacean (the group of mammals that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises) to be driven to extinction by human activities. The demise of any species is truly tragic, but it is really disheartening to see that even a charismatic animal like the Baiji (which is revered in Chinese folklore as the spirit of a drowned princess) can be allowed to slip into extinction by the humans that share its habitat. What hope have all the un-cute critically endangered animals got?
Yangtze dolphin dissapears - The Age