As is discussed in the other texts, there is a great deal of conservation work being performed with the goal of saving the Baiji.

A major concern is that much of this conservation work is based on speculation.

Surprisingly little is known about the baiji in the wild. There was no effort to determine the number of surviving dolphins until 1979, when a three-year survey estimated a maximm of 400 along the entire length of the Yangtze. There has been a rapid reduction in numbers in the years since. Today there could be as few as 200 baiji left and the numbers continue to decrease. Major research programmes are already underway, aimed at filling the gaps in our knowledge about the animal's seasonal movements and population structure.

As with many other rare species of animal, captive breeding may be the only chance to save the baiji. But some conservationists question whether breeding animals that will then have to be granted permanent sanctuary in a semi-natural environment can rightly be termed 'conservation'.

Unless captive breeding is accompanied by equally energenic efforts to address the interlinking problems affecting the animals' habitat, small numbers of the baiji will survive but the river in which they once lived and all life within it will die.

Lost? Click here for the main index page.