Christian Living

LauraR 08/16/07

Dinosaurs, Dodos, Now Dolphins. . . What's Next?

Last night I had the strangest dream. It was a bright, sunny day, and I was driving through Utah. Suddenly, a large dinosaur appeared, and proceeded to devour a cow in front of us.

For some reason, I wasn't at all afraid, and was trying to take as many pictures as possible. I was actually surprised to wake up this morning to find out that it wasn't a dream, because of the vivid experience.

While the dinosaurs have long been extinct, this year, China's Yangtze River dolphin, known as the baiji dolphin, has just joined their ranks. After an intensive search earlier in the year, scientists concluded that the dolphin has, in fact, taken its last dive.

Thousands of baiji dolphins inhabited the Yangtze River the 1950s, but that number had dwindled down to 13 by the 1999. The last official sighting was five years ago. For a species to be extinct "officially" there can be no sign of it for 50 years, so there's still a chance a few dolphins survive, but that's not very likely.

Over the past 60 years, pollution, industrialization, and the construction of the Three Gorge Dam has taken a toll on the population of these baiji dolphins, and scientists worry that other Yangtze River species are close to extinction.

One of the greatest concerns remains the fact that most of the dolphin deaths were accidental. Dolphins would often become caught in the nets of fishermen or face other unintentional casualties.

Some scientists believe that they must put other endangered Yangtze animals in captivity due to conditions in the river today. This means the endangered finless porpoise will probably soon be one of these protected species.

The baiji dolphins are the first species of whale, porpoise or dolphin, to become extinct as the result of humans, and the first animal over 200 lbs to become extinct within the last 50 years. While it's encouraging that these occurrences aren't the norm, it's definitely a strong warning for other species.

On a more positive note, China's panda program has made significant strides in increasing the number of pandas. In fact, last Monday, Jinzhu, a female panda experts initially thought was a male, gave birth to twins. Congratulations!