July 25, 2018 / 12:39 AM / a year ago

China's rare Yangtze porpoise numbers still in decline: government

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The population of critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoises has continued to decline in recent years despite intensive conservation efforts, China’s agriculture ministry said following a survey.

A investigation into a 1,669 km (1,040 miles) stretch of the Yangtze river conducted late last year found that only 445 finless porpoises were still alive, down from 1,225 in 2006, Yu Kangzhen, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said at a briefing on Tuesday.

“The main reason is human interference...including water pollution, engineering and construction, shipping development, overfishing, illegal quarrying and so on,” Yu said, adding that 10 dead porpoises were discovered in the Yangtze in the first half of this year.

The total population of the species, including those now living in special sanctuaries set up by the state, now stands at an estimated 1,012, Yu said.

The baiji dolphin, a cousin of the finless porpoise and fellow resident of the Yangtze river, was declared “functionally extinct” in 2007.

Yu said Chinese authorities had still not given up on the baiji dolphin, known as the “Yangtze mermaid”, and said there was a sighting of the species in Anhui province in April this year, though nothing was confirmed during a subsequent investigation.

A total of 1,085 animals and plants native to China are listed on the global red list of “threatened” species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to a report published last year by a group of Chinese non-governmental organizations, 738 of the protected species saw their numbers decline from 2000 to 2015, with only 102 seeing improvements over the period.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry

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