Friday, September 14, 2007

The Yangtze River dolphin is officially extinct!

This represents the first extinction of a large vertebrate for more than fifty years and the only species of cetacean ever to be driven to extinction by human activity.An intensive six week survey was undertaken at the end of 2006, which covered the entire historical range of the species in the main channel of the Yangtze River in eastern China.

Not a single individual was found.Dr Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London said: “The loss of such a unique and charismatic species is a shocking tragedy. The Yangtze River dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over twenty million years ago. This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet.”

It is believed that the main factor responsible for the disappearance was the accidental death of large numbers of dolphins in fishing gear, rather than active persecution.In stark contrast to this tragic news - in a once-lost forest in Africa, six animal species new to science have been discovered including a bat, a rodent, two shrews and two frogs.

These new species were discovered in an expedition from January and March 2007 into woods just west of Lake Tanganyika, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have been off limits to scientists for more than 50 years.

These woods have been isolated from much of the Congo rainforest - the second largest rainforest in the world - for at least 10,000 years, which explains why they held new species, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Deo Kujirakwinja.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"