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Chinese authorities rush to save endangered species from extinction


03-03-2017 08:15 BJT

Full coverage: 2017 NPC & CPPCC Sessions

(Source: CGTN)

They've been nicknamed the underwater pandas. Finless porpoises have thrived in the Yangtze for about 300,000 years and are the only surviving mammals in the river. But today the mammals are rarer than China's giant panda and experts predict they could be extinct in a decade. As awareness about finless porpoises rise, measures are being taken to rescue the species.

This is Yangtze's finless porpoise, a lovely and smart creature, and the only surviving mammal in China’s longest river. Today it is endangered. The number of finless porpoises has shrunk to 1,040 in the wild. As their population drops by nearly 14 percent each year, the threat of extinction within the the next five to ten years looms.

Experts say human activities are making life difficult for finless porpoises in the Yangtze River. Busy shipping traffic, over-fishing, port construction, and sand excavation in the river have often been blamed for the current state of the species.

Now efforts to to save the ancient species from extinction have started. Relocating the mammals to their natural habitat is a proven, although temporary, method. China has built three natural reserves in traffic-free areas of the Yangtze River. The porpoises are relocated to the reserves when they’re found injured. So far, 85 are living there.

"We can save some animals in the areas where is safe. Hopefully the Yangtze River can be coming back as a natural river. At that time, we will release the animals in our natural reserves back to the (mainstream) of Yangtze River to reestablish the natural population. That’s our final goal," Wang Ding with Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.

Finless porpoises are on top of the Yangtze River’s food chain. But food is becoming scarce as fish die in the river. On June 1, 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture published a draft plan to ban fishing in the river from 2020.

"Last April, Hubei province closed 72 ports that had illegally excavated sand in the Yangtze River. In addition to that, I think we should draw an environmental red line on the Yangtze River, a limit that should not be crossed," CPPCC member Huang Qiaoyun said.

For many years people have exploited the economic benefits provided by the Yangtze River, China’s so-called “golden waterway”. Many believe it’s time to focus on its protection.

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