Yangtze finless porpoise: Protecting China’s ‘Smiling Angel’

BEIJING, Nov. 11, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from China.org.cn on China’s efforts to protect Yangtze finless porpoise:


In a recent poll, netizens voted to name a rare Yangtze finless porpoise. Efforts to protect this endangered species have shown promising signs in China during the past few years.

Recently, an online poll was held to choose a name for a Yangtze finless porpoise code-named “YYc.” After the voting concluded, a team of experts selected “Hanbao” from the most popular replies, which has the same pronunciation as “hamburger” in Chinese. The name really suits it since the calf’s chubby body is just like a hamburger. Moreover it was born in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province. “Hanbao” means “Wuhan’s treasure” in Chinese.

Hanbao is indeed a treasure.

The 2-year-old male calf is China’s first artificially-bred second-generation Yangtze finless porpoise. Its father Taotao is the world’s first Yangtze finless porpoise to be bred naturally in an artificial environment.

The breeding of Hanbao shows that Yangtze finless porpoises born in an artificial environment can produce offspring, marking a breakthrough and a new stage in the artificial breeding of the species.

But why has such a little porpoise drawn so much attention?

Because it’s undoubtedly cute, but also critically endangered.

According to data and scientific surveys, from 1992 to 2012, the number of Yangtze finless porpoises, an iconic species of the Yangtze River, plummeted from about 2,700 to around 1,040.

The decreasing speed is shocking. If protection is not strengthened, the endangered mammal is very likely to suffer the same fate as the baiji dolphin, nicknamed the “Goddess of the Yangtze River,” which is now considered functionally extinct.

To conserve the “Smiling Angel,” affectionately named for its mouth fixed in a permanent grin, over the past decade, China has imposed a 10-year fishing ban in the Yangtze, enacted the Yangtze River Protection Law, and launched the Yangtze River Finless Porpoises Rescue Action Plan (2016-2025). Efforts have also been stepped up in research and practice through on-site conservation, ex-situ conservation, and artificial breeding and reproduction.

Fortunately, the protection work has delivered encouraging results. The rate of decline has slowed significantly and bottomed out around 2017. One year after the fishing ban was implemented in 2021, a population survey showed positive momentum, with nearby residents reporting seeing “more and plumper Yangtze finless porpoises.” The aquatic animals can often be seen swimming in groups, with calves cuddling up to their mothers. At conservation reserves along the Yangtze River in Hubei, the number of the porpoises has increased from the original five to 150. Four artificially-bred Yangtze finless porpoises including Taotao have grown up healthily.

These achievements can be attributed to the joint efforts of the government, research institutions and the general public. However, despite the enhanced protection, we still have a long way to go in helping the species to recover. Various problems still need to be addressed, such as unattended areas in on-site conservation and the risk of complete failure of ex-situ conservation.

In the next 10 years, 20 years, 100 years… the conservation efforts cannot and will not stop, so that future generations can see a large number of finless porpoises navigate the clear waters of the Yangtze.

China Mosaic


Yangtze finless porpoise: Protecting China’s ‘Smiling Angel’