The Baiji population declined drastically in recent decades as China industrialized and made heavy use of the river for fishing, transportation, and hydroelectricity. Efforts were made to conserve the species, but a late 2006 expedition failed to find any Baiji in the river. Organizers declared the Baiji 'functionally extinct', which would make it the first aquatic mammal species to become extinct since the demise of the Japanese Sea Lion and the Caribbean Monk Seal in the 1950s. It would also be the first recorded extinction of a well-studied cetacean species (it is unclear if some previously extinct varieties were species or subspecies) to be directly attributable to human influence.
In August 2007, Zeng Yujiang reportedly videotaped a large white animal swimming in the Yangtze. Although Wang Kexiong of the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has tentatively confirmed that the animal on the video is probably a baiji, the presence of only one or a few animals, particularly of advanced age, is not enough to save a functionally extinct species from true extinction. The last uncontested sighting of a baiji was in 2004.
Baiji Dolphin Extinct
The Baiji dolphin, which only inhabits China's heavily polluted Yangtze River, is believed to be functionally extinct. Baijis were one of four known species of freshwater dolphins. An adult weighed 300-510 pounds (135-230 kg) and were around eight feet (2.5 m) in length, and had a long beak and a white underbelly. The Baiji is a now extinct species of river dolphin that lived exclusively in the Yangtze River in China. The Baiji or Goddess of the Yangtze was known by a number of different names such as Yangtze Dolphin, Chinese River Dolphin, Whitefin Dolphin and the Yangtze River Dolphin. In 2017 the IUCN declared the baiji critically endangered. The long-nosed river dolphin is also referred to as the Yangtze River dolphin, as its habitat is China’s Yangtze River. The final documented sighting of the baiji was in 2002, though Baiji Foundation scientists traveled over 3,200 km up the Yangtze River to hunt them out in 2006.