What’s Killing China’s Rare River Porpoises? (Video)

“River pig” is the Chinese name for the freshwater porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), an endangered species. China’s official news service Xinhua says that, in the past month and a half, twelve of the animals (including a pregnant one) have been found dead in Dongting Lake in south-central Hunan province. Six dead porpoises have also been found in Poyang Lake in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

Scientists are predicting that the porpoises, which have lived in the Yangtze River and nearby lakes for 20 million years, could become extinct in the next decade and a half.

It is a terrifying testament about how three decades of unbridled economic growth have taken a shocking toll on China’s environment and wildlife. Wang Kexiong, a researcher at China’s Institute of Hydrobiology , says that a combination of water pollution — toxic waste from factories and farms have contaminated many of China’s waterways — as well as shipping, sand dredging and illegal fishing are all culprits, according to Agence France-Presse via Raw Story.

Climate change has also been pointed to, as water levels have fallen with changing climate patterns and caused the porpoises’ food supplies to decrease. Local fishermen have asked if water pollution might be a reason, noting that they routinely see dead fish and other aquatic animals in the water.

This video shows the river porpoise in an aquarium in Wuhan:

Only 1,200 river porpoises were estimated to be alive in 2006, the year in which another species, the Baiji (a freshwater dolphin native to the Yangtze River area) was declared extinct. Only 65 freshwater porpoises have been counted in Dongting Lake and 300-400 in Poyang Lake this year.

Yueyang city near Dongting Lake has called for an investigation. But it also seems high time for China to step up its lax environmental regulations, to preserve what remains of its wildlife whose survival is more and more threatened every day in the water and on the land.

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Screenshot of a river porpoise in captivity from a video uploaded by Baiji Foundation via YouTube


stacey wallace
stacey wallace4 years ago

Ty for sharing

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ana Passos
Past Member 5 years ago


Ana Passos
Past Member 5 years ago


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago



federico bortoletto
federico b5 years ago


Ian Brown
Ian Brown5 years ago

It seems a though the Chinese are making the same mistakes we, in the west, made during our industrial revolution (and in some respects, still make today). Who was it who said, "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history".

Sheila D.
Sheila D5 years ago

It would be nice if this was a wakeup call to China and they started cleaning up their rivers, lakes, ponds, air, and land. We'll see...

Anita Wischhusen
Anita Wisch5 years ago

The majority of Chinese "medicine" still uses tiger bone, and bear gall bladders to help in the male populations erection disfunctions........ You think such a "backward" people care about animals or their environment?

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright5 years ago