In Chinese folklore, the baiji is dubbed 'Goddess of the Yangtze', a beneficent animal once revered by the fishing people of the river. The species was declared a National Treasure of China and has been a protected species since 1975 (3). However, this had very little effect on the population, which continued to decline despite conservation efforts and legal protection. It was thought that the only chance to save the species from extinction would be to remove all of the surviving individuals from the Yangtze into the 'Baiji Semi-natural Reserve' which was created in 1992 (6). However, since the unsuccessful search for any surviving baijis in 2006, it is unlikely that a captive breeding programme will now ever be possible (4). The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has now classified the baiji as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct); it cannot be definitively classified as Extinct until further surveys are undertaken (1). Sadly, it seems that this goddess of the Yangtze will be the first cetacean species to become extinct in modern times as a result of human activities (5).
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