Chinese singer Jane Zhang announces at a press conference on June 25, 2013, that she is working with several other organizations to establish a fund to protect the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, whose population has declined to about 1,000. [Sina]
Chinese singer Jane Zhang has announced that she is working with several other organizations to establish a fund to protect the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, whose population has declined to about 1,000.
Zhang was appointed as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)'s Yangtze finless porpoise conservation ambassador in November 2012. She released a charity song earlier to raise public awareness and money for a foundation she established with the WWF and the Wuhan Baiji Dolphin Conservation Fund (WBCF) to support the work of related research institutions and volunteers in protecting the species.
Zhang made the announcement at a press conference on June 25, 2013, where she donated the copyright royalty and the 800,000 yuan (US$ 130,160) proceeds from her charity song to the newly set up foundation. She also said that the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the public should work together to create a healthy and friendly living environment for the animal.
The Yangtze finless porpoise mainly lives in the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, and is known locally as the jiangtun. It is well-known for its appearance, which gives the impression that it is smiling mischievously, and it has a level of intelligence comparable to that of a gorilla. It is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Since the official extinction of the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, in 2007, the porpoise is the only cetacean inhabiting the Yangtze River and two connecting freshwater lakes, Dongting and Poyang. The Yangtze finless porpoise population has declined to a mere 1,000 individuals, two-thirds less than a decade earlier, making the endangered species even rarer than the wild giant panda, according to the 2012 Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Survey Report. The report also pointed out that its annual rate of decline now stands at 13.7 percent, which means that the Yangtze finless porpoise could be extinct as early as the year 2025.
As this species remains in coastal waters, it has a high degree of interaction with humans, which often puts the finless porpoise at risk. Like other porpoises, large numbers of this species are killed by entanglement in gill nets. Moreover, the sand dredging which has become a mainstay of local economic development in the last few years in the region that borders Poyang Lake and the high-density dredging projects are all among the principal causes of the death of the local wildlife population.
A spike in deaths in 2012 is causing experts renewed anxiety with WWF China expressing "deep concern" over the deaths of 32 porpoise in the last year. Experts suggested that a set of enhanced measures that include in-situ conservation and ex-situ conservation approaches are essential to efforts to save the animal. The WWF has called for an all-year-round fishing ban for all river dolphin reserves and the establishment of a national reserve in Poyang Lake and ex-situ conservation reserves along the Yangtze.