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Chinese river dolphin

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Temporal range: Late Miocene-Present?[2]
An illustration of the baiji
Size compared to an average human size
Conservation status

Critically endangered, possibly extinct (IUCN 3.1)[3]
Scientific classification
L. vexillifer
Binomial name
Lipotes vexillifer
Miller, 1918[4]
Natural range of the baiji

The Chinese river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) or baiji was a river dolphin. It was found only in the Yangtze River in China. The last confirmed sighting of the baiji was in 2004 but there were possible sightings in 2007 and 2016 as well.[5] The baiji was declared functionally extinct in 2007. that means experts said that even if there had been a few baiji left alive in 2007, there were probably not enough left to have young and keep the species alive.[6] The IUCN Red List says the baiji is critically endangered but not really extinct.[3]


The baiji was a graceful animal, with a long, narrow and slightly upturned beak and a flexible neck. As opposed to some other freshwater dolphins, like the Indus River dolphin, its eyes were functional, although greatly reduced. Its coloration was bluish-gray to gray above and white to ashy-white below. It weighed 135 - 230 kg (300 - 510 lb) and measured as much as 2.5 m (8.2') in length.

Reasons for extinction

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) noted these threats to the species:

  • a period of hunting by humans during the Great Leap Forward,
  • entanglement in fishing gear,
  • the illegal practice of electric fishing,
  • collisions with boats and ships, habitat loss, and
  • pollution.

Further studies have noted the environmental impact of building the Three Gorges Dam on the living space of the baiji.[7]

It was the first dolphin species that humans have made extinct.


  1. Mead, J.G.; Brownell, R. L. Jr. (2005). "Order Cetacea". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 723–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 . OCLC 62265494 . 
  2. "Lipotes vexillifer (Chinese river dolphin)". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Smith, B.D.; Zhou, K.; Wang, D.; Reeves, R.R.; Barlow, J.; Taylor, B.L.; Pitman, R. (2008). "Lipotes vexillifer". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) 2008: e.T12119A3322533. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T12119A3322533.en . 
  4. Miller, Gerrit S. Jr. (1918). "A new river-dolphin from China". Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 68 (9): 1–12. 
  5. Reuters (August 30, 2007). Rare dolphin seen in China, experts say. New York Times. 
  6. Tom Phillips (October 11, 2016). China's 'extinct' dolphin may have returned to Yangtze river, say conservationists. Guardian. Retrieved July 16, 2020. 
  7. Walters, Mark Jerome (November 1993). "Who speak for the baiji?". Animals (EBSCO) 126 (6): 6–6.