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White Dolphin Functionally Extict 868

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gone-the-way-of-the-dodo dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time in nearly fifty years another mammal, specifically an aquatic mammal, has gone extinct. In this case, it was the white dolphin, also known as the Baiji, which used to live in the Yangtze River in China. The dolphin had been known to exist for the last 20 million years."
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White Dolphin Functionally Extinct

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  • Oops! (Score:5, Funny)

    by justkarl (775856) * on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:53PM (#17226318) Homepage
    Makes me feel bad about the tuna sandwiches I had for dinner last night.
    • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:58PM (#17226402) Homepage Journal
      Rest assured that all your future tuna sandwiches will be White Dolphin free.
    • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by J.R. Random (801334) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:02PM (#17226484)

      Makes me feel bad about the tuna sandwiches I had for dinner last night.

      While many ocean dolphins do get killed by tuna nets, the species that went extinct was a river dolphin, unique to the Yangtze. They were done in by the increasing pollution of that river. So instead of feeling bad about the tuna sandwiches you had you should feel bad about the cheap DVD player you bought -- not only did the people who put it together get paid slave wages, but the company that employed them didn't "waste" any money on pollution control.

      • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Knara (9377) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:06PM (#17226582)
        According to TFA, it wasn't pollution, but rather overfishing and shipping traffic that did them in.
        • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:08PM (#17227730)
          So if we're going to feel bad about something, feel bad that some Chinese kid had food to eat and could go places.
        • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Nasajin (967925) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:27PM (#17228072)
          I've just contacted the associate professor in cetacean research at my local university, and asked specifically what the cause of the dolphin's extinction is. Apparently, the extinction is a combination of "pollution from industry, habitat loss due to damming, and incidental catch [i.e. fishing]". His words, not mine. I'd hope that he has a bit more knowledge about the issue than the journalists at CNN do.
          • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Informative)

            by siufish (814496) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:57PM (#17228516)

            From their website [baiji.org]:

            The decline of the Baiji and the critical situation of the finless porpoise appears to not be directly influenced by the water quality of the Yangtze. Within the framework of the Expedition, scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology did simultaneously investigate the chemical composition of the Yangtze river water and its particulate load. Scientists took both water and sediment samples from 30 different locations all along 1750 kilometers of the river. Although the Yangtze does have an altogether high degree of pollutant build-up, at this time, as Beat Mueller from Eawag pointed out, there are no indications of toxic pollutants in high concentrations.

            (Emphasis mine.)

            Here is some information [eawag.ch] on the staff at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

            Not to discount your source, but I'd hope that they have a bit more knowledge about the issue than your associate professor.

            And please, /.ers, stop knee-jerking. That's not what geeks do.

      • Re:Oops! (Score:4, Funny)

        by derubergeek (594673) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:05PM (#17227680) Homepage Journal

        not only did the people who put it together get paid slave wages...

        Man. Think how much cheaper our stuff from China would be if those silly Chinese stopped paying wages to their slaves. Sounds like they need an efficiency expert - or at least a dictionary.

        You think the two Bob's would be available?

      • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Keebler71 (520908) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @05:07PM (#17228656) Journal
        They were done in by the increasing pollution of that river. So instead of feeling bad about the tuna sandwiches you had you should feel bad about the cheap DVD player you bought -- not only did the people who put it together get paid slave wages,...

        Are you implying that I should feel bad about buying something that creates a job in a part of the world that desperately needs them? What is a slave wage to you may be a godsend to the worker. To quote Sowell [wikipedia.org]: "The real minimum wage is zero [unemployment]."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        ...feel bad about the cheap DVD player you bought -- not only did the people who put it together get paid slave wages, but the company that employed them didn't "waste" any money on pollution control.

        The same is true about the expensive DVD player you just bought.
    • Re:Oops! (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln (21727) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:29PM (#17226980) Homepage
      Don't feel too bad, it was bound to happen. This species required constant reassurance or it would die, and it was sexually attracted to fire.
    • Damn! (Score:5, Funny)

      by danpsmith (922127) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:12PM (#17227808)
      The bubble-era vision of a Utopian ocean is dented and dirty...The white dolphin has collided with the olive tree, and its crumpled hulk spins in a ditch as the orchard smolders.
  • Overloards (Score:5, Funny)

    by pseudorand (603231) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:54PM (#17226326)
    I, for one, morn the loss of our potential aquatic overlords.
  • Well done, humans...

    Did they say 'So long, and thanks for all the fish'?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#17226384)
      Don't kid yourself. If a white dolphin ever got the chance he'd eat you and everyone you care about.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    404 File Not Found

    The requested URL (science/06/12/13/1731222.shtml) was not found.

    If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.


    But really, the best way to bring them back is to make them profitable. So... the answer is a "swim with the white dolphins" exhibit in China. Then, if the place can sell the swim with the dolphin experience for 200 bucks, people will start breeding and stop killing white dolphins!!

    Perfect!
  • by Eros (6631) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:56PM (#17226364)
    How did they taste?
  • Idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fayn (1003629) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#17226380) Homepage
    Hindsight in 20-20 indeed. Maybe now governments will get the idea that if you want to protect a species, you actually have to protect it. Just sitting arond and holding press conferences and askind advisors endlessly will not solve a single thing. This crap needs to change, and soon.
    • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:58PM (#17227524) Homepage Journal
      • The dolphin was officially down to 6 or less a decade ago.
      • It was featured in Douglas Adams' "Last Chance To See" as critically endangered sometime before that.
      • The two that the Chinese had in captivity died due to neglect and the use of exactly the kind of netting that have been killing them along the river for containment.
      • The problem with fishing was not limited to overfishing - there are plenty of fish upriver of the dam. The problem was that the Chinese saw no point in allowing the dolphins and the fish to be in the same stretch of river.
      • The Chinese could - very easily - have moved the dolphins upriver of the dam, getting them out of the way of boats, pollution, etc. The decision not to do so had nothing to do with capability, money, resources, fish, pollution, or any other such problem. The decision not to was based on apathy.
      • The environmentalists were equally capable of moving the dolphins. The politicians could hardly have stopped them - even if they wanted to. And why would they have wanted to? It would have gotten rid of the problem, would have allowed them to claim credit if the solution worked, and would have cost them nothing if it had failed.
      • Environmentalists were equally capable of relocating the dolphins. There's so much boat traffic and so much illegal fishing, who would have noticed the Rainbow Warrior flooding a compartment and stuffing a few dolphins in it? The dolphins need a fresh water river and there's not exactly a world shortage of those.
      • And the marine parks around the world? They could have charged a small fortune to exhibit a river dolphin, run a captive breeding program and got their name in lights for saving an entire species. So what do they do? Uh.... Nothing?
      • Gene banks and cloning groups? Silent. No efforts on saving the genetic data for later generations, no efforts by geneticists to produce a clone, not even an effort to map the genes to see what made them what they were. (Wheat you can find next year. Humans will be around for a loong time. But the plants and animals that you get one chance at and that's it?)


      I have to give credit where credit is due, though. The stupidity of all the organizations - from Greenpeace to the Chinese Government - that could have made a difference but chose not to make a difference that mattered is not the mundane stupidity we see in everyday life. This is a highly trained, highly refined breed of stupidity that only the truly gifted hand-wringer could develop.

  • by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @02:57PM (#17226388)
    I know they're not really equivalent, but it's still funny to see this right above "New Zealand's First Land Mammal Discovered".
  • Chalk another one up for the Human race! If only I could drink the blood of our eco-enemies!
  • Wouldn't "Near" or "Almost" be more adequate than "Functionally"? For a moment, I thought this was a story about trained dolphins no longer wanted by the military since they were "functionally" useless.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Forseti (192792)
      No, "near" or "almost" implies that there is still a chance to bring them back. In this case, the gene pool is aparently too small to do that. That's what "functionally extinct" means.
  • heartbreaking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:00PM (#17226436) Homepage
    Douglas Adams had a chapter on the efforts to save the baiji in
    • Last Chance to See
    , which is really an amazing book for those of you who haven't read it. The sadness of this situation will no doubt be marred by countless slashdot posts by the rabid anti-environmental right who tend to post on these sorts of stories.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gt_mattex (1016103)

      It is heartbreaking.

      In the end it doesn't matter if your political views are left or right. Extinction is threatening a great multitude of species and sooner or later you will be affected negatively. Regardless of who you are or how you define affected.

    • I agree. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:17PM (#17226758)
      I agree. In the book he gives a poiniant description of the environment of the Baiji. Due to heavy traffic the river itself contains constant mechanical noise. For a creature that uses sonar to see and move life in white noise is blindness. He compared it sleshwere eloquently to spending your life in a snowstorm able to see but seeing nothing.

      As much as people may want to celebrate this, or at least gloat, about the weak dying off and this being part of the "natural cycle" I say that's just a bit sick and way too short sighted.

      I'm an environmentalist for many reasons chief among them is that I'm selfish. No matter how much we may like to hide in our offices we depend, completely depend, upon the life on the earth around us. Between Dolphins dying in the Yangtse, to the sheer number of ocean species that will die as the ice retreats the web we depend on is, strand by strand, being cut. Sitting around and saying "I told you so" to each other will do no good. Either we all (all animals) survive or we don't but resorting to simple stories gets us nowhere.
  • by steak (145650) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:02PM (#17226490) Homepage Journal
    it sucks that they're gone, but times change and evolution is cruel mistress. they should have grown opposable thumbs 20000 years ago and stopped our ancestors from inventing the plow then maybe they would have stood a chance.
  • So long (Score:4, Funny)

    by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:02PM (#17226496) Journal
    and thanks for all the fish!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:03PM (#17226522)
    They called him Fripper, Fripper ...
  • Last Chance to See (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Those of you referencing HHGTTG are off a bit....

    Douglas Adams wrote "Last Chance to See...", with naturalist Mark Carwardine, and one of the endangered species they sought out was....

    The Baiji river dolphin.

    And now, the last chance has passed. I miss Mr. Adams, but I'm glad he didn't have to see it.

    - j
  • by Anonymous Coward
    fuckin' unelected lying Chimp
    He and the GLOBAL WARMING DENIERS killed the white dolphin
    it probably drowned because all the ice on the Yangtzee thawed thanks to Halliburton.
    All you stupid Christian idiots probably think Osama bin Laden did it.
    Even though there is NO connection between 911 and white dolphins!
  • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:10PM (#17226664)
    My question is, is anyone preserving DNA samples from the existing specimens? Maybe another 20 years it will be feasible to produce clones of the species. I'm not saying try and repopulate the species into the wild, though that could be an option, but rather perhaps just for preservation in a zoo or similar habitat. Whether or not this actually happens in the future, we'd need to start thinking about gathering and preserving the DNA samples now. If we hurry, it may not even be too late to come up with 20 to 25 unique sets to match the number the article suggests is the minimum number of dolphins needed to even hope for a resurgence of the species.
  • Douglass Adams (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shrapnull (780217) * on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:15PM (#17226726)
    Chinese river dolphins (of both the pink and white variety) are covered in a lesser-known but extremely good book by Douglas Adams called "Last Chance to See", which covers a variety of endangered species.

    I love how the publicity for the dolphins led to a media circus that resulted in them actually being considered a delicacy in the area.

    Choice quotes from the book here: Douglas Adams: Last Chance to See Quotes [quotegeek.com]
  • Huh (Score:4, Funny)

    by locokamil (850008) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:20PM (#17226796) Homepage
    Find one (nouveau New Zealand mammal), lose one (Chinese White Dolphin). It evens out, no? :: Goes and votes Republican ::

    I kid, I kid.
  • by El_Smack (267329) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:29PM (#17226998)
    I /thought/ my tuna sandwich tasted different today.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @03:32PM (#17227054)
    I won't believe the white dolphins are dying until Netcraft confirms it.
  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @04:31PM (#17228132) Homepage
    Why is it - knowing that the dolphin probably bailed out - I'm suddenly looking up in the sky wondering if a large fleet of construction ships will soon be overheard in preparation to create an interstellar bypass?
  • by MrCopilot (871878) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @05:06PM (#17228640) Homepage Journal
    From the expidition website:

    Alongside the search for the Baiji, the scientists surveyed also the population of the endemic Yangtze Finless Porpoise, and the total was less than 400. The situation of the finless propoise is just like that of the baiji 20 years ago, sais Wang Ding, deputy director of the Institute of Hydrobiology Wuhan. Their numbers are declining at an alarming rate. If we do not act soon they will become a second Baiji, said Wang Ding, deputy director of the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Science in Wuhan

    http://www.baiji.org/expeditions/1/overview.html [baiji.org]

  • by monkeybrain (305911) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @08:10PM (#17230908)

    The late Douglas Adams (along with Mark Carwardine) wrote a book titled Last Chance to See about a number of animals on the brink of extinction. The chapter Blind Panic was all about the baiji dolphin's predicament. Practically blind, the baiji dolphin relied sonar to navigate the Yangtze river - the trouble is that the Yangtze is really busy and hence noisy and polluted. The baiji didn't stand a chance, though from the book it seemed that the Chinese did put a lot of effort into trying to save them.

    Scott

  • by dghcasp (459766) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @08:31PM (#17231090)

    The only animals that matter are the cow, the pig, and the chicken. They'll never go extinct from environmental factors because we humans have taken over their care and feeding (and eating.)

    There may be a moral argument for keeping a species from extinction, but there's usually a financial argument for killing just one more. Every time a poacher kills an Elephant, his family gets to eat, or he gets to buy a new car. There will always be people for which finance trumps morals. The rain forests aren't being cleared because people hate trees, it's because they need more room for cows, pigs, and chickens.

    Personally, I'm sad to see another species go extinct, but in reality, it will have no impact on my life that there are no more white dolphins in China.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Profound (50789)
      Tragedy of the commons...

      Complex organisms that have evolved over millions of years are not just externalities! Hopefully before too long humans will realise that breeding populations of genes have immense value, even for purely selfish reasons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LarsWestergren (9033)
      The only animals that matter are the cow, the pig, and the chicken. They'll never go extinct from environmental factors because we humans have taken over their care and feeding (and eating.)

      If you really believe that, you are staggeringly ignorant. Don't you think plants need insects to pollinate them, birds to spread their seeds for instance? Good luck feeding the cows, pigs and chickens without the plants. But even if you are only talking about large animals, biodiversity is important and more fragile tha

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