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Yangtze finless porpoise: smiling river rarity

There’s new hope for this rare and endangered Chinese river porpoise.

The Yangtze River finless porpoise species:

Critically endangered (Around 1000 remain) Neophocaena asiaeorientalis

Affected by: Climate change , Habitat loss and fragmentation , Food & farming

The Yangtze river’s finless porpoise is one of the very few porpoises (relatives of dolphins and whales) that live in fresh water. Its small size and cute 'smile' make it much loved in China and beyond. But we need to prevent it going the same way as the functionally extinct Yangtze river dolphin, also known as the Baiji.

After years of rapid decline, the latest census shows that the population of the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise has remained almost stable in recent years – dropping very slightly to 1012 individuals from 1040 in 2012.

The porpoises are at risk from the same threats that the Baiji faced – including loss of food sources and boat collisions.


The Yangtze finless porpoise is found in the main Yangtze river channel in central and eastern China, and in two lakes, naturally connected to the river, in the central Yangtze - Dongting and Poyang.

Why the Yangtze finless porpoise is so important

Porpoises play an important role in keeping their environment healthy. They eat fish and other river creatures, which would otherwise increase in number and unbalance the local food chain.

Equally, porpoises are a good indicator of the health of their environment – if the river is overfished or polluted, the porpoises struggle to survive.

By protecting these porpoises we’re helping preserve healthy rivers and lakes – which a lot of people heavily rely on for food, provision of clean water and as source of livelihoods.