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Dolphin spotters report possible sighting of ‘functionally extinct’ Chinese river dolphin

Animal-protection volunteers believe they may have seen a freshwater dolphin that is one of the most endangered animals in the world on a recent expedition, Anhui Television reports.

Unique to the Yangtze River, the baiji or Chinese river dolphin has been declared functionally extinct, meaning if any individuals remain alive, there numbers would be too few to make the species sustainable.

Witness to Extinction

The expedition team spotted an aquatic animal that looked like a baiji dolphin in the Yangtze River in Wuhu, Anhui province, on Tuesday morning, report said.

A grey-white creature with a long snout was seen leaping from the water three times 200 to 300 metres away from the boat.

The volunteers immediately put a sonar detector in the water in the hope of recording sounds from the animal, but did not have time to photograph the creature.

The team reported the sighting to the China Academy of Sciences, and experts have been dispatched to look into the findings, according to the report.

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Since September 30, the volunteers have been using four fishing boats to look for baiji on the Yangtze River. The expedition will last until October 7 and is expected to cover more than 800km of the river.

The last confirmed sighting of a baiji dolphin was in 2002, and an intensive six-week search in late 2006 failed to find any evidence of the species.

It is unknown whether any of the dolphins still exist in the river.