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A glimmer of hope for the Yangtze finless porpoise
After decades of worrying decline, the Yangtze finless porpoise, the world's only freshwater porpoise, is finally showing signs of recovery, writes BirdGuide.
The population of this critically endangered cetacean has risen from 1,012 to 1,249 over the past five years, marking a 23% increase.
A result of concerted conservation efforts
This significant increase is the first recorded since records began, proving that the combined conservation efforts to save the species from extinction are indeed making a difference.
The Chinese government has been implementing measures to protect the species and restore the Yangtze River, such as the Yangtze River Protection Law introduced in 2021, which banned all fishing in the river system to help conserve the porpoise.
WWF-China's CEO, Lunyan Lu, expressed hope for the first time in decades, stating:
"There is still work to be done to ensure the long-term survival of this iconic species but there is real hope for the first time in decades."
Current porpoise population distribution
The 2022 survey found 595 porpoises in the mainstream of the Yangtze River, 492 in Poyang Lake, and 162 in Dongting Lake. Previously, the population had plummeted due to threats like accidental entanglement in gill nets, pollution, sand mining, navigation, land use change, and loss of habitat.
Collaborative efforts making a difference
WWF has collaborated with the government to protect the porpoises and their habitats by monitoring the population, relocating individuals to safer parts of the river system, and working with local fishers and authorities to reduce illegal fishing practices in the porpoise's range.
Yangtze finless porpoises are an indicator of the health of the river, and their significant increase shows that the Yangtze is thriving. This is crucial since 400 million people and extraordinary biodiversity depend on the health of the world's third-longest river.
Hope for other river dolphins
The Yangtze finless porpoise's recovery offers hope for the world's other five remaining species of river dolphins, all of which are threatened with extinction. By taking steps to protect and restore their rivers and reduce threats like illegal fishing, we can help these populations and their rivers thrive.
Make sure you read our investigation into the sixth mass extinction: