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September 8 2012

Yangtze finless porpoise: China's national treasure disappearing fast

It's been an hour and the group of volunteers aboard the rickety fishing boat are still yet to spot a Yangtze finless porpoise, known as jiangzhu or "river pig". Thirty years ago, when they numbered 2,000, the mammals could be seen from the shore here dancing on Dongting Lake in the sludge-coloured waves. Now there are about 85 jiangzhu here. As Xu Yaping, the patrol's chief, peers through the haze, and coal barges and dredgers churn the lake, the chance of encountering this ancient creature seems remote.

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