In Search of the Baiji: An Adventure in China
by D. W. Hoard and S. Wachter
Update 2005: Ten-year Reunion
In November, 2005, Dr. Zhang Xianfeng from the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan (former home of Qi Qi the baiji) emailed a photograph to us showing a baby finless porpoise and its mother. The male baby was born at the Institute of Hydrobiology Baiji Aquarium in Wuhan on July 5, 2005, weighing 6 kg with a length of 70 cm. This is the first Yangtze River finless porpoise and freshwater cetacean ever born in captivity.
Dr. Zhang also told us that he would be visiting the United States in mid-December to attend the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, hosted by The Society for Marine Mammology, in San Diego. Since we live relatively nearby, in Los Angeles, we arranged to drive down to San Diego to meet with him. It had been 10 years and three months since our first visit to China to learn about the baiji, when we had originally met Dr. Zhang in Wuhan.
Dr. Zhang brought a wonderful sheet of Chinese postage stamps for us, dedicated to the most endangered animals native to China (“Key Wild Animals Under First-Grade State Protection”), including the baiji. He also gave us a set of postcards showing each of the animals and including the stamps, postmarked on their date of issue in 2000.
While in San Diego, we met two of Dr. Zhang's colleagues who were also attending the conference: Dr. Wang Ding, Head of the Research Group on Conservation Biology of Aquatic Animals (Dr. Zhang is also a chief member of this research group), and Dr. Wang Kexiong, a former graduate student of Wang Ding who is now a researcher at the Institute of Hydrobiology (despite having the same surname, the two Drs. Wang are not related).
Dr. Zhang also gave us an informational brochure about the Institute of Hydrobiology. It describes the activities of Wang Ding's research group as follows: “[The] main studies of the group include animal acoustics and behavioral ecology, mechanisms causing the species [to be] in danger, population dynamics, small population biology, and restoration of endangered population, as well as reproductive biology of endangered species.”
Wang Kexiong and Wang Ding were presenting a research poster at the marine mammals conference in San Diego. The poster is entitled “A passive acoustic monitoring method applied to determine movement direction of free-ranging finless porpoises” and describes the acoustic devices used to monitor the finless porpoises that are currently living and (based on our conversation with Wang Ding and Zhang Xianfeng) prospering in the Shishou Semi-Natural Reserve (see Wang et al. 2005, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 118, 1180).