Two endangered finless porpoises have been found dead in the Yangtze River in the space of a week, according to mainland Chinese media reports. One was found on Monday in Jiayu county, central Hubei province, four days after the remains of another were recovered from Dongting Lake, a tributary of the Yangtze in central Hunan province, news website Thepaper.cn reported. The Dongting Lake carcass was tied with a rope and weighted with bricks, and authorities in Hunan said the creature became tangled in a fishing net. The Hubei death is under investigation. The Yangtze’s finless porpoises are “extremely endangered”, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a 2016 action plan to protect the species. Last year, vice-minister Yu Kangzhen said surveys showed there were about 1,012 of the animals in the river. In 2017, China raised its protection for the mammals to its highest level because of the critical dangers they faced. Experts said that as the river’s “flagship” species, the porpoise was an indicator for the Yangtze’s ecology. The porpoise discovered in Hubei was small and it had suffered superficial wounds, investigators were quoted as saying. They estimated that it was found soon after its death. Xiaoxiang Morning Post quoted fisheries authorities in Yueyang, near Dongting Lake, as saying the porpoise in Hunan was found with weights around its tail. Two porpoise carcasses found on separate Hong Kong shores Officials said the fishermen who set the net feared they would be blamed for the creature’s death and tied bricks to its tail to sink it. Other fishermen who witnessed the incident told the authority, leading to the discovery of the body, the report said. The investigation is ongoing and the suspects are still at large. A fishing authority spokesman told the newspaper that the porpoise’s death showed the difficulty of balancing conservation with the livelihoods of fishermen. “It’s difficult to figure out a good model to protect the porpoises without affecting fishermen’s business,” he said. In mainland China, finless porpoises are referred to as “giant pandas in water” because of their endangered status. Their numbers fell from 2,700 in 1991 to 1,800 in 2006, and there were 1,045 finless porpoises in 2012, according to agriculture ministry data.