On December 12, 2006, the Yangtze River Dolphin, also known as Baiji, was declared “functionally extinct” by scientists after the six-week expedition along the Yangtze River in China.

In a paper published online in the journal Biology Letters, researchers concluded that the Baiji was driven to extinction by human modernization and overfishing. The paper described that the industrialization of the Yangtze region and overfishing caused the deterioration of the region’s environment, which led to the depletion of the Baiji population.

Functionally extinct

The research was done by a team of scientists led by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. They are composed of different researchers from across the globe, including some from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The team was divided into two and sailed on vessels twice across the 1,699 kilometer river from 6 November to 13 December of 2006.

After six weeks, scientists officially declared the species “functionally extinct” on December 12, 2006.

2021 marks the 15th year this was declared.

Are there any left?

The Baiji is a freshwater Dolphin found only in the Yangtze River. The Baiji population declined as early as the 1950s, and sightings now become rarer and rarer. In the 1990s, scientists surveyed that only 13 Baiji were in the wild.