Update 2003: Death of Qi Qi
On June 23, 2003, we received the following sad email from John Schmid, who had seen Qi Qi in Wuhan in June of 2002 while traveling in China:
Are you still interested in the Baiji? Some friends of mine and I went to the Wuhan facility last summer (June 2002). It is interesting to see your pictures. The place hasn't changed much, except that I think the grounds are better-kept now.
My friends and I were brought to the facility by a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and I was able to take video footage of the dolphins. Unfortunately, Qi Qi died the night we saw him. We might have the last video of the dolphin while it was still alive.
Thought you might like to know.
Here is an excerpt reproduced from the announcement in the People's Daily (English edition), Xinhua News Agency, July 15, 2002 (available at china.org.cn):
LAST YANGTZE RIVER DOLPHIN IN CAPTIVITY DIES
The only white-finned dolphin (also known as the baiji or Yangtze River dolphin) in captivity in the world died in Wuhan on Sunday, July 14th, at the approximate age of 24. Scientists said the death of the male dolphin, known as Qi Qi, came as a surprise since the old dolphin appeared normal on Saturday.
Qi Qi was captured by a Yangtze River fisherman on January 11, 1980, and was shipped to the institute the following day. He was then 1.47 meters in length, 36.5 kg and approximately two years old.
Numbers have fallen from some 400 in the early 1980s to far fewer than 100 now and the species is now the most endangered of all cetaceans. Recent surveys in recent years have seen just a few individuals and it appears to be close to extinction.