Dolphin capture funds withdrawn

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 1997, 12:00am

THE Ocean Park Conservation Foundation has ditched plans to fund an 11th-hour attempt to capture baiji, the world's most endangered dolphin species.

Fewer than 100 baiji survive in the polluted Yangtze River.

Last June, a female, caught by the Institute of Hydrobiology at Wuhan, drowned after becoming entangled in nets marking the boundary of a semi-natural reserve.

Only Qiqi, a male baiji captured a decade ago, survives in captivity and the River Dolphin Research team are eager to find him a mate.

But according to an Ocean Park Conservation Foundation spokesman, they will be doing it without foundation funding this time.

The foundation is, however, sponsoring an exhibition, 'Baiji - our treasure in the Yangtze', at Beijing's Natural History Museum between August 8 and October 15.

The director of the institute's Department of River Dolphin Research, Professor Wang Ding, said rescuing baiji from the polluted Yangtze was their only hope of survival. 'If we don't do anything this species will be gone in 25 years. The only way we can save them is to catch as many as possible and move them from the Yangtze River.' He plans to move them to the semi-natural reserve - an oxbow lake separated from the Yangtze - where the female baiji died last June. But Professor Wang has vowed not to put any more baiji in the reserve until the authorities have replaced the temporary nets.

In autumn, researchers plan to survey 1,700 kilometres of the Yangtze River and mount a capture operation between November and January. While the 10-day survey involving several hundred officials and fishermen will be paid for by the Ministry of Agriculture, Professor Wang said they still needed funds for the 300,000 yuan (HK$279,000) capture operation.

In an effort to raise awareness and funds, the Wuhan Baiji Conservation Foundation has been established.