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'Extinct' Yangtze sturgeon making a comeback

By HUANG ZHILING | | Updated: 2023-04-07 22:47
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A researcher examines Yangtze sturgeon eggs at a rewilding and reproduction experiment site in Yibin, Sichuan province, on March 28. [Photo provided]

The Yangtze sturgeon, which had been declared extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, has reproduced in the wild in Sichuan province, albeit with a little nudge from humans.

Researchers hailed the development as a key step in rebuilding the Yangtze sturgeon population.

In July, the IUCN released an updated report about the Red List of Threatened Species, in which it declared the Yangtze sturgeon — a rare and iconic species — to be extinct in the wild.

But last month, researchers placed 20 mature males and females into the Jiang'an section of the Yangtze in Yibin, Sichuan. The fish lived in experimental cages of 45 cubic meters. Two days later, using underwater monitors, researchers discovered that natural spawning had taken place. And in the following days, fertilized sturgeon eggs hatched.

Nearly eight months since the species had been declared extinct in the wild, it had reproduced naturally in the wild, said Du Hao, a researcher at the Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.

The success of the experiment proves that the Yangtze sturgeon has retained its instinct for reproducing in the wild. It represents a step forward in establishing a practical foundation for the restoration of its habitat and the rebuilding of wild sturgeon populations, Du said.

The Yangtze River Sturgeon Rewilding and Reproduction Experiment was conducted by Du's institute, in conjunction with the Fisheries Institute of the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Yibin Institute of Rare and Aquatic and Terricolours Animals.

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