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Reservation to protect endangered white-flag dolphins in east China
( 2003-10-30 11:09) (Xinhua)

A nature reserve for white-flag dolphins, one of the most endangered animals in the world, is under construction in Zhenjiang on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

Dubbed "living fossils in water," white-flag dolphins are a rare archaic species that have lived on the earth for about 25 million years and are regarded as of equal scientific value as giant pandas.

But since the middle of last century, the number of white-flag dolphins has dropped sharply because of the deterioration of the environment. It is estimated that only about 50 white-flag dolphins remain in the Yangtze River, their only habitat.

The new nature reserve will cover 57 square kilometers on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest river, which flows through east China.

According to Dai Yuping, the official in charge of fishery in Zhenjiang municipal government, the part of the Yangtze River flowing through Zhenjiang is one of the most important habitats for white-flag dolphins. During observations organized by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1997, four white-flag dolphins were discovered in Zhenjiang.

"The only film on white-flag dolphins in the Yangtze River was shot here," Dai said.

"As there are not many factories alongside the banks of the river, the quality of the water is fully guaranteed, and there are large areas of bulrushes in the reserve and rich fish resources, a good living environment for white-flag dolphins."

Now the reserve is half closed and less shipping goes through this route. "But in the near future, this water area will be totally closed to shipping and fishermen using this area will be moved out in batches," Dai added.

Before the construction of the Zhenjiang nature reserve, three other reservations were set up in the Yangtze River valley.

As a rare species under top-class state protection, white-flag dolphins have also been listed as one of the 12 most endangered animals in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

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