One tall man, two lucky dolphins and some sad news

From the annals of the weird and wonderful comes this tale of a pair of lucky dolphins:

The world's tallest man helped save two dolphins in China by reaching into their stomachs and pulling out harmful plastic they had swallowed, state media said Thursday. The dolphins got sick after eating plastic from the edge of their pool at an aquarium in Liaoning province.

Veterinarians said they decided to call for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9-inch herdsman from Inner Mongolia, according to Chinese state media. Photos from the scene show Bao reaching his arm, which is more than one metre long, inside one of the dolphins, which has a towel wrapped around its jaw so it can't bite.

A singular story, to be sure, and one that's unlikely to be repeated. But at least it's a positive story from the cetacean sciences, unlike the news, also from China, that the world's rarest dolphin is now functionally extinct.

SHANGHAI, Dec. 13 -- For millions of years, the Chinese river dolphin basked in the waters of the mighty Yangtze, a gray phantom more than six feet long with a sharp snout and tiny eyes. The endearing creature, which the Chinese call baiji, was the stuff of legend, a goddess to some, and the delight of fishermen who occasionally saw one break the water's surface.
News came Wednesday that they were right: Development in China has in all likelihood extinguished the baiji, erasing the species from the planet. An expedition of some of the world's leading experts, equipped with sophisticated viewing equipment and ultra-sensitive microphones, announced it had ended its mission after five weeks on the river without detecting any sign of surviving baijis.

"It's possible that there are two or three left that we missed somehow, but functionally they are extinct," said August Pfluger, a Swiss conservationist whose Foundation was one of the expedition's sponsors. "It's finished. This is very, very sad."

Yes it is.


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