The following infographic data are supplement to the 'Hewangmiao / Tian'ezhou' Social Tape album. WWF China have graciously provided the following infographics for the Yangtze finless porpoise program. They have also given an English translation of the graphics.
The first two graphics introduce why the Yangtze finless porpoise population is in decline and outlines the solutions and goals to preserve the Yangtze finless porpoise. The last two provide information on the two sites where Yangtze finless porpoise are currently protected- the Tian'ezhou and Hewangmiao Nature Reserves.
SOS: Only 1,040 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoises remain today
Yangtze River ---the “home” of Yangtze finless porpoise
- Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis), nicknamed “river pig”.
- Genus: Neophocaena; Family: Phocoenidae; Order: Cetacea. The only freshwater population among Phocoenidae.
- Mainly occurs in the main streams of the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River, as well as in Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake, the two large-scaled lakes that are connected with Yangtze River.
The population of Yangtze finless porpoises is declining sharply with the deterioration of ecological conditions in Yangtze River
Over the last few decades, the population of Yangtze finless porpoises has been declining year by year and their living is facing severe challenges due to the impact of increasing human activities.
The survey in 2012 showed that:
Approximately 1,040 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise are found, including:
- Main streams 500 individuals
- Dongting Lake 90 individuals
- Poyang Lake 450 individuals
The population declined at a rate of 13.7 percent each year between 2006 and 2012, on an accelerating path to extinction
As a result of ecological changes in Yangtze River, the Yangtze finless porpoises have to be preserved through translocation.
Yangtze finless porpoise—a critically endangered species
The Yangtze finless porpoise was listed as critically endangered species by IUCN/SSC in 2013.
The Yangtze finless porpoise has been managed and protected according to the standard for animals under the first-class state protection by the Ministry of Agriculture since October 2014
All these factors contribute to the sharp decline of the population of Yangtze finless porpoise:
- Channel dredging
- Fragmentation, degradation or loss of habitats
- Sharp decline of fish stocks
- Accidental injury and manslaughter
- Over-fishing and illegal fishing
- Sand mining
What should we do to keep the “smile” of Yangtze finless porpoises?
We have to take measures to promote the in-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoise, and build the population of Yangtze finless porpoise with ex-situ conservation as much as possible to maintain its natural reproduction. To make it happen, we must protect the eco-environmental conditions, the water resources and aquatic biological diversity in Yangtze River.
Where are we protecting Yangtze finless porpoises?
- Zhenjiang (In-situ conservation)
- Nanjing (In-Situ conservation)
- Tongling (In-situ/ Ex-situ)
- Anqing (In-situ/ Rescue Base)
- Poyang Lake (In-situ/ Rescue Base)
- Dongting Lake (In-situ)
- Xinluo river section (In-situ)
- Tian-e-zhou and Shi-shou river section (In-situ/ Ex-situ)
- He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow (Ex-situ)
- Wuhan Baiji Dolphin Museum (Artificial Breeding Research)
How can we protect Yangtze finless porpoises?
To ensure the natural reproduction of Yangtze finless porpoise’s population:
- Implement ex-situ conservation to prevent Yangtze finless porpoise from becoming extinct.
- Implement in-situ onservation to mitigate the degradation of Yangtze finless porpoise
- Platform of Protected Area Network for Yangtze Finless Porpoise & Public participation platform
The future we expect
Implement in-situ conservation for 600 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise:
1. Monitor the population and habitat status of Yangtze finless porpoise (at the main streams of Yangtze River, Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake)
2. Ban fishing all year round in the main streams along the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River
3. Restore and rehabilitate the natural habitats of Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake for Yangtze finless porpoise.
4. Newly build and upgrade the nature reserves to protect Yangtze finless porpoise.
5. Appropriately plan and fully conserve the wetland areas surrounding the nature reserves for Yangtze finless porpoise.
Implement ex-situ conservation for 200 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise
1. Well develop the existing nature reserves for ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoises.
2. Build new nature reserves for ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoises.
1. Accelerate the construction of Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Protection Network.
2. Enhance the capacity building of these nature reserves.
3. Fully leverage the role of NGOs and businesses.
4. Build a public participation platform.
5. Strengthen regional and international cooperation.
* Source: Action Plan on the Protection of the Yangtze Finless Porpoise under the Ministry of Agriculture and the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A good example for ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoises
In early 1990s, the Chinese government established a reserve for ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoise in Tian-e-zhou oxbow, Shishou, Hubei Province. The action plan on the relocation of Yangtze finless porpoise from the main streams of Yangtze River into the reserves was also successfully implemented. Since 2004, WWF, under the support of HSBC, has been engaged in the demonstration of ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoise in Tian-e-zhou oxbow. The practice over the last two decades has proved the success of establishing population of Yangtze finless porpoise for ex-situ conservation in Tian-e-zhou oxbow.
Tian-e-zhou oxbow: favorable environment and rich biodiversity
Tian-e-zhou oxbow has become the first demonstration site in the world that has successfully implemented ex-situ conservation effort on cetaceans and enjoyed high reputation in international community on conservation of aquatic mammals.
Advantages of Tian-e-zhou oxbow in terms of ex-situ conservation: wide water bodies, connection with Yangtze River during the flood season, good water quality, rich food, free from industrial pollution and no shipping
Expanding population of Yangtze finless porpoise in Tian-e-zhou oxbow
Since 1990, nearly 20 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise have been relocated into Tian-e-zhou oxbow.
In recent years, 3-6 individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise were born annually. A total of more than 30 individuals were born, adding the total population of Yangtze finless porpoise to nearly 50 individuals.
In contrast to the situation in the main streams and lake areas where the natural population of Yangtze finless porpoise is declining, the population in Tian-e-zhou oxbow is expanding.
Challenges facing Tian-e-zhou oxbow
The success of Tian-e-zhou oxbow on ex-situ conservation of the Yangtze finless porpoise has provided a good example for the protection of the Yangtze finless porpoise and other small-sized cetacean species which are under environmental stress.
However, we still urgently need to promote the healthy development of the population of Yangtze finless porpoise for ex-situ conservation by expanding the size of existing nature reserve or seeking to establish a new nature reserve.
1. As the water bodies in Tian-e-zhou oxbow only cover an area of over 20 km2, its environmental carrying capacity for the Yangtze finless porpoise is reaching its threshold. In addition, the limited duration of the Tian-e-zhou oxbow in connecting with Yangtze River each year has constrained the population and diversity of fish resources for Yangtze finless porpoise.
2. Many negative factors including inbreeding have significantly increased their potential impacts on the growth of the population of Yangtze finless porpoise.
3. The non-point source pollution in local rural areas has posed a challenge to the water environment of Yangtze finless porpoise.
4. The problem of encroaching shoals by the surrounding communities is prominent.
Finding the next habitats for Yangtze finless porpoise
Through joint surveys and studies, WWF and the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified some other oxbows that are similar to Tian-e-zhou oxbow as the alternative sites for ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoise.
These potential sites are: Hei-wa-wu/Zhong-zhou-zi oxbow; Chi-ba oxbow; Laohe oxbow; He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow
A ‘new home’ for Yangtze finless porpoises
He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow lies in the water bodies at the junction between Jianli County, Jingzhou City, Hubei Province; and Huarong County, Yueyang City, Hunan Province, China. The oxbow was formed in 1968 when the curved section of Yangtze River was artificially made straight. Through the survey and study by relevant research institutions in 2013, He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow was identified to be a site that is similar to the Tian-e-zhou oxbow. Therefore, He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow was selected as a “new home” for the Yangtze finless porpoise, which plays a significant role in protecting the genetic resources of Yangtze finless porpoise.
He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow used to be the habitat for the Baiji dolphin, Yangtze finless porpoise, Chinese sturgeon and Chinese paddlefish. It provides a natural “home” for wildlife in Yangtze River.
The seasonal connection of the oxbow’s exit with Yangtze River makes it possible for the oxbow to keep eco-environmental conditions similar to Yangtze River.
Natural shoals and ecological landscapes are preserved in the surrounding areas of the oxbow.
The water quality in the oxbow is assessed to be Class I-II.
Total area: 44.16 km2
Buffer Zone 5.17 km2
Experimental Zone 22.39 km2
Core Zone 16.6 km2
He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow: rich biodiversity
- Phytoplankton 69 species (genera)
- Zooplankton 80 species
- Zoobenthos harvested 16 species (genera)
- Fish 34 species (belonging to 11 families and six orders)
- The dominant species of plant communities include: Typha angustifolia, Alopecurus aequalis Sobol., Cynodondactylon(Linn.)Pers., Leersiahexandra Swartz, Hemarthria altissima (Poir.) Stapf et C. E. , Ranunculus ternatus Thunb., Astragalus sinicus L., and Heleocharis plantagineiformis Tang et Wang
Development of He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan Nature Reserve for Yangtze Finless Porpoise
- Baseline survey
- Removing stationary fishing nets and net cages
- Alternative livelihood for fishermen
- Public education
- Application and upgrading of the nature reserve
- Relocation of Yangtze finless porpoise into the nature reserve
Joint participation and promotion
- Central and local governments
- Scientific research institutions
- General public
1. Short-term objectives
- Implement ongoing monitoring and protection on the “founder” population of the Yangtze finless porpoise.
- Build a sound system on the ex-situ conservation of Yangtze finless porpoise in He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow within five years, and improve the projects and infrastructure for scientific research and monitoring efforts.
- Address the contradictions between nature reserve development, alternative livelihood for local fishermen and development of local communities.
2. Long-term objectives
- Further expand the population for ex-situ conservation and gradually establish a population for ex-situ conservation of the Yangtze finless porpoise.
- Enhance monitoring on genetics of ex-situ population and avoid the occurrence of inbreeding and other incidents.
- Jointly establish the population for ex-situ conservation of the Yangtze finless porpoise with other nature reserves and exchange individuals when appropriate.
Procedure to “settle” Yangtze finless porpoise
In spring 2015
- Conduct general survey on the population and health of Yangtze finless porpoise in Poyang Lake.
- Catch eight individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise from Poyang Lake.
- Relocate four individuals into Tian-e-zhou oxbow to improve its population structure of Yangtze finless porpoise.
- Relocate another four individuals into He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow as the first group of founder population.
In winter 2015
- Relocate four individuals of Yangtze finless porpoise from Tian-e-zhou oxbow into He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow to accelerate the development of breeding population.
In winter 2017
- Conduct general survey on the population and health of Yangtze finless porpoise in Poyang Lake.
- Relocate four individuals from Poyang Lake into Tian-e-zhou oxbow to add the genetic diversity of the population of Yangtze finless porpoise.
- Relocate four individuals from Tian-e-zhou oxbow into He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow to expand the population of Yangtze finless porpoise.
All translated text and images © WWF. Used with permission.