China to move endangered dolphins for protection
China is to relocate the last white-flag dolphins, which are on the verge of extinction, to a protected nature reserve to stop them dying out, state media said.
The world's rarest dolphins, which number less than 100, are only found in China and cannot be reared artificially, the Xinhua news agency quoted scientists as saying.
The dolphins live in China's longest river, the Yangtze, but overfishing, dam-building and environmental degradation have caused their population to fall from about 400 in the 1980s to less than 100 currently.
Zoologists this year gained preliminary approval from the central government to move the dolphins to a wetland nature reserve called Tian'ezhou islet in Shishou, central China's Hubei province, Xinhua said.
The dolphins will be protected from water pollution and busy navigation on the Yangtze River by moving to the loop-shaped reserve measuring about 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres).
Resettlement will begin at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
If the decline in the dolphins' population cannot be stopped, the animals will become the first dolphins to become extinct due to human activities, scientists said.
Dubbed "living fossils in water," white-flag dolphins are a rare archaic species that have lived on the earth for about 25 million years.
Some estimates suggest there are only about 50 white-flag dolphins remaining in the Yangtze River, their only habitat. Some experts predict they could become extinct within 20 years.