The Yangtze river dolphin is dead.
The Yangtze river dolphin has been declared extinct.
It's been 50 years since the last time we caused the extinction of a large vertebrate like this, and it's only the fourth time an entire evolutionary line of mammals has vanished from the face of the Earth since the year 1500. Mind you, as we are causing the extinction of a unique species every 20 minutes, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that this has happened.
It's not even as if we caused the extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin entirely through active hunting or other forms of "persecution", although, God knows, that would be bad enough. What's completely ironic about the way we wiped out this rare and precious creature is that it was at least partly done through a combination of factors including unsustainable fishing and mass shipping.
It was an "accident". It was "careless". How unspeakably sad.
Chinese fishermen used to view the Yangtze river dolphins as reincarnations of drowned princesses, and they were much revered. Mao's Great Leap Forward changed all that, and as "false idols" they were no longer protected. The fishermen who worshipped them began to hunt them for food and skins instead.
In the 1950s there were thousands of freshwater dolphins living in the Yangtze river and nearby watercourses. Since then, China has changed dramatically, and gone through massive industrialisation. These days the Yangtze is a polluted, crowded artery of mass shipping, fishing and power generation. A survey in 1999 estimated the population of river dolphins was close to just 13 animals...
And now there are none.
We are such ruthless uncaring bastards, we who are the human race. How appalling that we've ended up 'in charge'. My God. The planet will breathe a massive sigh of relief when we finally wipe ourselves out. Assuming, of course, that there's anything left of the planet by then.
May we be forgiven for our brutal lack of concern towards our beautiful world and everything that lives within it.
Here's some more stuff to read:
- Conservation International: Stop the Clock
- Greenpeace International
- The 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- WWF - global environmental conservation organisation
- Yangtze river dolphin driven to extinction
Technorati tags: Yangtze river dolphin, extinct, freshwater dolphin, extinction, conservation, environment, China, Greenpeace, IUCN Red List, threatened species, WWF, World Wide Fund for Nature, World Wildlife Fund, WebWeaver's World, webweaver.