By Erik Crouch
Finless porpoise via @kiuko http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiuko/4822917743/
After spending more than a month tracking the blob-like animal along the Yangtze River, Chinese researchers have concluded that the finless porpoise is slipping towards extinction. Known lovingly (perhaps) as the “River Pig,” the porpoise lives throughout the shallow waters on the Chinese and Indian coasts, and a unique fresh-water population lives in the Yangtze. On a previous trip in 2006, researchers were able to find 177 finless porpoises in the river, but this year’s trip yielded only 91.
Researchers blame this drop in population on heavy river traffic and pollution. Despite its name, the river pig cannot live in the dirty waters that make up much of the Yangtze; excessive mud from sand dredging cuts the porpoise off from its food supply. Boat traffic also harms the animals, who can be hit by ships or have their sonar rendered useless by the constant noise. Although the finless porpoise may have dodged the bullets targeted at their finned counterparts the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the animal could go extinct within 15 years.