Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin

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Oxford University Press, 2008 - Nature - 234 pages
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The tragic recognition of the extinction of the Yangtze River Dolphin or baiji in 2007 became a major news story and sent shockwaves around the world. It made a romantic story, for the baiji was a unique and beautiful creature that features in many Chinese legends and folk tales. The Goddess of the Yangtze, as it was known, was also the lone representative of an entire and ancient branch of the Tree of Life. But perhaps the greater tragedy is that its status as one of the world's most threatened mammals had been widely recognized, yet despite wide publicity virtually no international funds became available.

Samuel Turvey here tells the story of the plight of the Yangtze River Dolphin from his unique perspective as a conservation biologist deeply involved in the struggle to save the dolphin. This is both a celebration of a beautiful and remarkable animal that once graced one of China's greatest rivers, its natural history and its role as a cultural symbol; and also a personal, eyewitness account of the failures of policy and the struggle to get funds that led to its tragic demise. It is a true cautionary tale that we must learn from, for there are countless other threatened species that will suffer from the same human mistakes, and whose loss we shall not know until it is too late.

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Witness to extinction: how we failed to save the Yangtze River dolphin

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Turvey, a conservation biologist with the Zoological Society of London, was a researcher and lead author of the 2006 scientific report that found that the baiji-a pearly-white freshwater dolphin ... Read full review

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I first learned of the existence of the Yangtze river dolphin from a book on cetaceans I checked out of the library when I was seven. I don't remember the title or author, but I do remember it had ... Read full review


The Goddess of the Yangtze
The Amazon of the East
The Aquatic Panda

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About the author (2008)

Samuel Turvey is Research Fellow at the Institute of Zoology, a department of the Zoological Society of London. He is a conservation biologist with a principal interest in the history and prehistory of human-caused extinctions and in developing conservation strategies for today's threatened species. He was deeply involved with the conservation efforts surrounding the Yangtze River dolphin, and was the lead author of the 2007 paper in Biology Letters which declared that it was probably extinct, generating tremendous international media attention. He has published numerous other academic papers in a range of scientific journals, including Nature.

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