Conservationists in China are experiencing unparalleled levels of hope after a thought-to-be-extinct dolphin was spotted in the famous Yangtze river.
The banji dolphin, nicknamed the "goddess of the Yangtze", was declared functionally extinct nearly ten years ago, after scientists studying the region in December 2006 could not spot a single one during a six-week expedition project.
"It's possible that we missed one or two animals [during the search], but we can say the baiji is functionally extinct," August Pfluger, a Swiss economist-turned-naturalist who financed the expedition, told National Geographic at the time.
But now, a team of amateur investigators claim they have spotted the banji during a recent seven-day search mission down Asia's longest river.
“No other creature could jump out of the Yangtze like that,” expedition leader Song Qi tells Sixth Tone, a Chinese government-backed news website. “All the eyewitnesses – which include fishermen – felt certain that it was a baiji.”
The banji is a freshwater river dolphin best identified by its long, thin nose, white and grey speckled skin, and small eyes which render it nearly blind.
Song Qi admits while he is not a conservationist or scientist by trade (he works in publishing in Bejing), he is certain what he saw emerging from the river that day was a banji.
Though more research into the banji spotting is yet to be conducted, many are taking the chance discovery as a much-needed win for further protection of this animal.