Yangtze Finless Porpoise

Yangtze River, Asia

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Clade: Synapsida
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Infraorder: Cetacea
  • Family: Phocoenidae
  • Genus: Neophocaena
  • Species: N. phocaenoides

A fascinating animal of Ancient Chinese tales, this species was once nationally cherished. As industry expanded over time, the species vastly began to decline. Today only 1,000-1,800 Yangtze River Porpoise still remain.

Inhabiting the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, this particular species of porpoise is renowned for its high level of intelligence and contagious smile. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise gained its name not only from the river in which it lives but also for the fact it is the only porpoise that has no dorsal fin. When comparing porpoises with dolphins, though upon first sight they may be visually similar, the two species differ. Unlike dolphins, porpoises do not have a defined beak and are shorter in length reaching only up to 6.2 feet. They are usually more timid that dolphins and do not demonstrate overly acrobatic behaviour.

This species usually inhabits shallow areas of freshwater, less than 50m deep. They are not overly socially animals and are usually found in smaller social groups. Cautious of humans, unlike dolphins, they do not approach boats which are commonly found on the Yangtze River.

Today, the Yangtze Finless Porpoise is a species under threat, with the animal being classified as vulnerable. Feeding on large amounts of crustaceans and fish, the expanding fishing industry is vastly reducing the food sources available to the animal. Overfishing is at the top of the list, but it does not stand alone as a threat to the Yangtze Finless Porpoise. China is renowned for its extremely high levels of pollution and unfortunately animals in the area are victims too. With an increase of pollution being leaked into rivers, often the animal must fight to survive.

The Careless behaviour of humans does not have to result in the disappearance of the Yangtze River Porpoise. Conservation efforts have already begun to prevent further harm to the species, implementation of strict fines for those who illegally fish in the area is already giving the species hope. With continued efforts, perhaps the species can be nationally treasured once again.

Estimated Yangtze Finless Porpoise population figures between 2000 and 2016

The above graph represents the current population trend amongst the Yangtze Finless Porpoise species. As seen, the population figure has declined from an estimated 4,100 individuals to just 990 individuals today. This indicates that there has been a loss of around 3,110 individuals over a period of just 16 years, accounting for more than 75% of the population.

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