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China Thinks They May Have Found One Surviving Baiji Or Chinese River Dolphin

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia


CHINA — In 2006, a survey conducted in December found a species of River Dolphin — known as the Baiji, or Chinese River Dolphin — to be functionally extinct.  When an animal is classified as such, this means that there’s only a handful of survivors left, and that the odds don’t look good for the species to make a comeback.  12 years after the survey, China thinks they may have found at least one surviving member.  That could mean that, possibly, there’s even more out there.



What’s a River Dolphin?


A River Dolphin is basically what it sounds like.  It’s a dolphin that survives in freshwater; it only lives in rivers.  This is not a formal classification of dolphin, but it’s an easy way to distinguish between the kinds of dolphins most people are aware of, and the four recognized species of river dolphins (with various numbers of subspecies).


There’s a few reasons why river dolphins aren’t as well known to the general public.  For starters, they don’t have a wide range.  There are only a few different species of river dolphin, and they are all restricted to small habitat areas.  


Another reason is that there are not many river dolphins in captivity.  The reasons for this range, but some of the problem has been that getting the animals to reproduce while in captivity has not proven to be successful. On top of this, in the 1950s to the 1970s, many Amazon River Dolphins were captured and sent away to be placed in captivity across the world, but out of the 100 that were sent, only 20 survived.  Currently, only three river dolphins are in captivity; one in Venezuela, one in Peru, and one in Germany.



Why Are They Endangered?


We only know for sure that some species of river dolphins are endangered and face extinction.  For example, the data for the Amazon River Dolphin is data deficient, or in other words, we don’t have enough information on the species to list it on the IUCN scale of endangerment. 


However, with that said, many species of River Dolphins are extremely vulnerable to habitat destruction, which helps lead to their endangerment.  Because they have such small habitat areas, when part of that habitat is taken over or destroyed, it can effect the entirety of the species.  


This is exactly what happened to the Baiji river dolphin.


Waste from the surrounding area of the Yangtze river, where the Baiji was once found, covered the water.  Ship traffic became a huge problem, as the Yangtze developed because of economic growth in China.  Noise pollution also played a role as the area of the Yangtze became more and more populated.  


The last verified sighting of the Baiji was in 2004, two years before they were declared ‘functionally extinct’.


So …if China Did Find a Baiji, What Does That Mean?


Unfortunately, we don’t quite have the answer to that question.  It would take a lot of work to get to a time where the Yangtze river is save enough for the Baiji to thrive.  “…Destructive fishing methods such as high-voltage electrofishing, floating gill netting, and muro-ami, a technique that uses encircling nets with pounding devices, should be strictly forbidden, and any violation should be punished to protect both the dolphins and their prey,”  Said Hua Yuanyu, a scientist who has been surveying and studying the species since the 80s.  


Basically, the Yangtze River would have to become a protected area via the government if there is any hope to save the Baiji.  


That said, Hua also said that the “reappearance of the baiji is another piece of evidence of the improved Yangtze ecology,” which by all means, is a very good sign for this particular animal.  Another glimmer of hope is that the Baiji “does not live in solitude,” and live in schools, according to Li Xinyuan, who is a Baiji dolphin enthusiast and was there when the photo of what they think is the Baiji was taken.  


On top of all of this, several fishermen have been confirmed to have seen the Baiji for themselves. 




Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


ICYMI: Lilly Singh, #GirlLove, and How She's Giving Education to Girls in Africa

Originally Posted in 2017

FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, massive YouTuber Lilly Singh has contributed to girls in Africa getting an education.


Lilly Singh has travelled to Kenya twice with the goal to help women sustain jobs so that they can afford to send their daughters to school so that they can get a real education.  Paired up with the charity MeToWe, Singh has designed a piece of jewelry called a Rafiki.  Rafiki is Swahili for "friend" or "comrade", making this piece of jewelry a friendship bracelet of sorts.  These Rafikis can be worn as a necklace, bracelet, or even an anklet.  MeToWe sells many of these, each one for a different purpose; and Singh's purpose is to give these underprivileged young girls and women the education they need and deserve.


"What do your kids want to be?"  She had asked these mothers.  "And [their answers would be] 'my daughter wants to be a lawyer', and 'my daughter wants to be a doctor'.  And then there's me and my friends that are like '[We want to be an] actress, or singer, dancer -- all these things that are probably just out of their realm of reality because they know what they need, and they want to fulfill those needs."


Last year, more than 30,000 of Singh's design were made by African women -- mothers of these girls -- and sold.  As a result, according to Singh, 600 girls were given access to education.  The money from the Rafikis go to school supplies, school fees, and school uniforms.  These pieces of jewelry are completely handmade, and last year Singh showed the process as she spent time with the mothers she's trying to help support.


To make a Rafiki, after choosing the colors of the beads, you put them into a bowl.  You then take a needle with thread attached, and dip the needle into the bowl, making each Rafiki unique in how the colors come together.  These women do this for their jobs, and the money goes to them so that they can afford to send their children to school as aforementioned.


This year Singh has spread her campaign wider.  Last year they sold and shipped these handmade Rafikis to 43 countries, and now MeToWe will be shipping them to 223 countries.  Over 5 times the amount of countries they sold and shipped to this time last year.


And already, Singh has reached her goal of selling 16,000 of these 'Girl Love' Rafikis.  As of the writing of this article, she has sold over 21,000 of this year's gold design.


The campaign is over, but you can still buy these Rafikis and support these girls in Africa -- helping them get an education.



Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Australia's Method of Reducing the STEM Gender Problem


AUSTRALIA -- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math still may be male-dominated fields of study at the moment, but there are courses around the world attempting to change this and encourage young girls to pursue studies in these fields.  According to the Australian government, only one in four IT graduates are women in Australia.  According to the same source, fewer than one in ten engineering graduates are women in Australia, and women only account for one quarter of the STEM field work force.

Now, while women are (of course) free to choose whatever they would like to do as far as a secular career, Australia feels as though they need to take part in encouraging young women to pursue these fields.  Logic dictates that the more diverse a field, the richer in knowledge it will become.  Why?  Because people from different backgrounds can help bring new perspectives, though processes, and answers to the table.  Often times it could be something people from similar backgrounds could not come up with themselves.  It all depends on circumstance, and how diversely different people think.


So, if the Australian government wants to step in, what exactly are the doing?  According to Gizmodo AU source material for this article the government is funding the idea of bringing more women into STEM fields.  They are going to be giving 3.9 million USD to the cause.  This funding will be secured by 24 different organizations.


These organizations are very similar in that they all focus on women in STEM, but they are also vastly different in how they go about things.  For instance, one project that will be funded is Girl Geek Academy.  They focus on encouraging very young girls.  Girls around 5 to 8 years of age.  On the other side, there are also projects being funded that aim their resources towards encouraging and teaching grown women such as the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering. The aforementioned Gizmodo article goes into more detail about other programs that will be funded, and what exactly they do to help educate and encourage young girls and women to pursue careers, or at the very least, learn about these fields.


Another round of funding will appear in 2017.


Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.