The tragedy of Lipotes vexillifer in China

China has vast land area, so it is rich in biodiversity. In this area, we can find several unique animal species, such as Panda and Lipotes vexillifer. Lipotes vexillifer is one of the Platanistoidea in the world, until now, there are only four kinds Platanistoidea live in the world. Lipotes vexillifer mainly lives in Yangtzi River, before Chinese government build dams to regulate this river, the population of Lipotes vexillifer is over 500 (1984).


However, in recent year, scientist and other institutions cannot find any evidences about this special species still live in this river. In 2006, Chinese government announced that Lipotes vexillifer is extinct.

The reason of the extinction of this species is complex. Scientist find three main factors, firstly, it is due to the big dams in Yangtzi River. When Lipotes vexillifer want to reproduction, they need to go to the upstream of Yangtzi River, but the new dam, especially the Gezhouba, stoped them. It is a little hard for them to find similar habitat in downstream, so they cannot do reproduction. Secondly, because the dam release less water into river, Lipotes vexillifer cannot find enough food and cannot survive without enough water. Thirdly, it is relate to water pollution, due to the demand of quick economic development in Yangtzi Rvier and near region, some industries and agricultural practice emerged in this region. Some of them release untreated water into river cause serious water pollution. Lipotes vexillifer cannot live in this kind of water condition, so the result of this species is extinct.


Actually, after they found the condition Lipotes vexillifer, they try hard to rescuer this species. Every year, government will give some funding to environmental institutions to catch some female Lipotes vexillifer, and transmit it to upstream to make sure they reproduction, but the effort is not clear. Government also provide money to use artificial propagation to help them reproduction, but it is still unsuccessful. They are so sensitive and in an artificial environment, they just not cooperate.


Therefore, we always say the extinction of Lipotes vexillifer is a big tragedy. Because of human actives, this beautiful species disappeared. We lost this creature, not only in biodiversity, but also in culture part. In China, we have a beautiful love story relate to Lipotes vexillifer. In some culture, Lipotes vexillifer is means kindness and purity.


This tragedy give us some lessons. During the process of development, we need to consider the influence to environment and ecosystem. We need a comprehensive assessment about development process. We also need policy support on environment protection to regulate people’s behaviour. Build biodiversity conservation in some area is important, it can help us protect the habitat and benefit local species.

This kind of tragedy is happened everywhere and in every minutes, such as Amazon area, even in MDB. We cannot stop the development of human being, but we can change the method of development and reduce the influence of human to other species. Each species have right to live in this planet, we should use our intelligent and ability to help them and stop this kind of tragedy.


About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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1 Response to The tragedy of Lipotes vexillifer in China

  1. Thanks for telling us about this (tragic) story of this species.

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