Meet the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise…
The Yangtze finless porpoise (neophocaena asiaeorientalis) can grow up to 6 ½ feet tall and lives up to 8-10 years. They live in Yangtze River, which is the longest river in Asia. The term “porpoise” is derived from Latin – “porcus” meaning pig and “piscus” meaning fish. The animal is known for its mischievous smile and has a level of intelligence comparable to a gorilla.
Currently there are only approximately between 1000-1800 Yangtze finless porpoises!
The population crashed by 52% between 1991 and 2006, with an estimated decline of 6.4% per year during that time!
At this rate, they could become extinct in 2021 – only 6 years away!
Cause of decline?
Overfishing is the main factor that is contributing to the decrease in finless porpoises’ food supply. They need an abundant food supply for survival, so the limited supply makes it difficult for them to survive and thrive. [In a way they are competing with humans to eat!] Other factors include pollution, which contaminates the lakes’ and river’s water, and lastly ship movement, which kills and injures nearby porpoises. Overall, human activities along the Yangtze River in China are driving the species to the brink of extinction!
“The conflict between conservation and economic development along the Yangtze is overwhelming.”
History is repeating itself! Have we not learned anything?!
The Yangtze finless porpoises’ close cousin, the Baiji dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2006. This was the first time in history that an entire species of dolphin had been wiped off the planet because of human activity. However, while the Baiji dolphin may have been more vulnerable, the porpoise depends on the same natural resources – therefore – the continuation of heavy human activity will drive this specie to extinction, just like it did to the Baiji dolphin!
Why should we care?
The habitat of the porpoise are shared by a variety of threatened and endangered species, including the Yangtze crocodile, sturgeon, paddlefish, puffer fish, and several varieties of carps. The continuation of activity is not only driving the Yangtze finless porpoise to extinction, but multiple other species. Helping this animal helps tons of others! It’s easy… save their home to save the species.
What would happen?
The extinction of the Yangtze River may lead to an overpopulation of fish – however nearby overfishing has already caused their food supply to decline. On the other hand – the extinction will lead way to the extinction of other threatened animals in the Yangtze river. The extinction of the species in the river will lead to the destruction of the river, causing the surrounding communities of fishermen and farmers to lose their resources, and consequently, their form of income. So by losing the porpoises, we will lose other animals in the river, and then harm the surrounding people. We are basically hurting ourselves!
More than 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 1/3 of the population relies on the river for water, food, energy, and economic growth. So unless we think about alternate, less harmful manners of living nearby the Yangtze river, we are currently choosing between humans and animals – with would cause the inevitable destruction of both.
What’s being done?
Since 2002, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and its partners have reconnected more than 40 floodplain lakes with the main stem of the Yangtze River, which has restored seasonal flows and allowed the migration of species between the lakes and river. Not only does it allow the finless porpoise to migrate (helping its safety), but it has also contributed to a more abundant and secure food supply for the porpoises. The WWF has also worked to provide fishermen with feasible alternatives for income generation, which has helped to develop the economy, stop overfishing, and allowed fishermen to contribute to the protection of the finless porpoise.
The WWF is restoring wetlands, working with farmers and fishers, and helping industrial parks improve their water efficiency and reduce pollution along the Yangtze River. They have been collaborating with the public and private sectors, aiming to uplift the effects of their work and secure a future for the finless porpoises and humans.
The big step.
The Yangtze finless porpoise has been reclassified by China’s Ministry of Agriclture on November 3, 2014 as a “National First Grade Key Protected Wild Animal” – which is the strictest classification available by law. The new classification helps to better the protection enabling the Ministry of Agriculture to enforce new measures which includes:
* illegal fishing will be strictly controlled
*occupation of finless porpoise habitat, migration channels or feeding areas by an individual or organization will be considered illegal
*anyone who inflicts harm on the porpoise through shipping or other activities will be transferred to judicial authority for criminal prosecution
How to help!
“It’s like trying to control traffic while someone’s throwing money from the Empire State Building.” -Rojas-Bracho
Please help save the porpoises, which would in turn save countless other species which are threatened due to their habitat’s conditions… the Yangtze River. The classification of the animal allows us to help them in a more controlled and powerful way, so their protection will contribute to the help of other species just because of the close proximity and shared environment. Please help by donating to the WWF and by spreading awareness! The surival of both the humans and animals of the Yangtze River are threatened – so we must act now before its too late.
Positive steps have been taken to help the animals – we just have to continue the cycle!