AP is reporting that after a depressingly rapid decline, the Baiji, or White Dolphin, of the Yangtze River has succumbed to a combination of overfishing, habitat destruction and heavy river traffic (which interfered with the animal’s sonar.)
The report is not unexpected (Baiji have been on the brink for years now,) but it is a sombre moment; this is a large mammalian species (the first in my lifetime) that has been driven to extinction by human activity. It’s hard to believe that an animal that had a viable breeding population in the 1980’s should have disappeared entirely. They were present recently enough that we have high resolution digital photos of them, websites about them, the ability to communicate their demise (and unsuccessfully attempt to forestall it) across the entire world in seconds, and yet, somehow, we let the creatures themselves slip through our fingers. That speaks of dubious priorities to me.
And, yes, I thought of the obvious title, but John Lynch beat me to it.