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14 animals declared extinct in the 21st century

In spite of US and international legislation, humans continues to cause extinctions of species worldwide.

10. Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji Dolphin), Lipotes vexillifer, 2008

Vincent Yu/AP/File
A Chinese Yangtze river dolphin jumps out of the water off of Hong Kong, Sept. 15, 2000.

The IUCN listed the baiji as critically endangered in 2008, naming it “the most threatened cetacean in the world,” and experts believe the baiji is now extinct.

In the 20th century, this species was identified in a number of Chinese rivers, but by the turn of the 21st century, the baiji lived only in the Yangtze.

The last documented sighting of a Yangtze river dolphin was in 2002. By 2006, extensive studies using a hydrophone to listen for the dolphin’s whistles failed to find a single dolphin in the Yangtze.

Many factors contributed to the baiji’s decline. Electric fishing, which is strictly banned but is still widely practiced in the Yangtze, killed many dolphins and their food supply. Dams prevented their movement upstream and blocked tributaries, depleting fish supplies. Pollution, in the form of 16 billion cubic meters of wastewater discharged into the river annually, also played a role.

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