They referred to it as the “Goddess of the Yangtze” because it was a very uncommon creature that local fishermen and anyone else who was fortunate enough to see it was said to be granted protection and good fortune.
However, overfishing and human activity brought it very close to going extinct, and it hasn’t been observed for many years.
“The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, was this unique and beautiful creature — there was nothing quite like it,” said Samuel Turvey, a British zoologist and conservationist who spent more than two decades in China trying to track the animal down.
Its water levels have dropped to record lows of 50% of their normal levels for this time of year due to below-average rainfall since July, exposing fractured river banks and even exposing submerged islands.
Hundreds of species at risk
Over the years, conservationists and scientists have identified and documented hundreds of wild animal and plant species native to the Yangtze.