Baiji

Liptodes vexillifer

Last updated: February 17, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Baijis use echolocation to find food in the Yangtze River.

Baiji Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Lipotidae
Genus
Liptodes
Scientific Name
Liptodes vexillifer

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Baiji Conservation Status

Baiji Locations

Baiji Facts

Prey
Yellow catfish, carp, copper fish
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
Baijis use echolocation to find food in the Yangtze River.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Commercial fishing nets, habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
A long, upturned nose
Other Name(s)
Yangtze dolphin, white fin, white flag

Baiji Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • White
Skin Type
Skin
Top Speed
37 mph
Lifespan
24 years
Weight
368 lbs
Length
7.5-8.5 feet

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View all of the Baiji images!



The baiji is sometimes called the Yangtze dolphin, the White fin or the White flag.

The baiji is an animal that lives in the Yangtze River in China. There are believed to be very few baiji left in existence. Its official conservation status is Critically Endangered, but some scientists believe they are extinct.

3 Incredible Baiji Facts!

• Swallowing prey: The baiji has 30 to 36 sharp teeth. But, instead of chewing small fish and other prey, they swallow them whole.
• Echolocation: This mammal has very poor vision. It uses echolocation or sound waves to find schools of fish and other prey.
• Dolphin in jeopardy: This mammal is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct. For decades, it was unintentionally caught in commercial fishing nets. When these mammals are caught in fishing nets they cannot come up for air.

Baiji Classification and Scientific Name

The scientific name of the baiji is Lipotes vexillifer. Lipotes is Latin meaning left behind, and vexillifer is a Latin word meaning flag bearer.

The baiji is also known as the Yangtze dolphin, the white fin or the white flag. It’s the only member of the lipotidae family and is in the Mammalia class.

Baiji are one of six species known as river dolphins. The others include:



• Ganges River dolphin
Amazon River dolphin
• Araguaian River dolphin
• Bolivian River dolphin
• La Plata River dolphin

The baiji is Critically Endangered. Scientists disagree on how many are left in existence. Some scientists believe there may be 10 or fewer while other scientists believe them to be extinct.

Baiji Species

Most of these mammals live in the open ocean. But the baiji or White fin is known as a river dolphin due to its specific habitat. Other notable examples include:

• Bolivian River dolphin: This freshwater river dolphin is a little bigger than the baiji. Bolivian River dolphins can grow as long as 9ft and weigh just under 400lbs. Their existence is also under threat due to commercial fishing activity in the Bolivian River.
• La Plata dolphin: This species lives in freshwater as well as saltwater estuaries. It’s smaller than the baiji. The La Plata dolphin grows to be 5.9ft. long and weighs 110lbs at the most.
• Ganges River dolphin: This freshwater dolphin’s behavior is similar to the baiji in that it hunts prey by echolocation. But the estimated population of this dolphin ranges between 1,200-1,800.

Baiji Appearance

A baiji is an animal with a bluish gray back and a white underside. They have 30 to 36 sharp teeth on their upper and lower jaws. A baiji has one stomach that’s divided into three chambers whereas most dolphins have two stomachs. Their nose is long and beaklike. They have rounded fins that allow them to move swiftly through river water. Baijis range in length from 7.5 to 8.5 feet. They weigh around 360 pounds.

Their coloration allows them to blend in with their river habitat. The ability to swim very fast is another defensive feature of this dolphin. The fastest a baiji can swim is 37mph.

Baiji in the water

Baiji Distribution, Population and Habitat

The baiji lives in the Yangtze River in China. They are freshwater dolphins. Their hunting behavior includes finding prey on both the floor of the river as well as in shallow areas. The estimated population is anywhere from 10 of these dolphins to none. This is why their official conservation status is Critically Endangered. Some scientists believe they are an extinct species.

This mammal is critically endangered for a few reasons. For decades, these dolphins were (unintentionally) captured in the nets of commercial fisherman and died. Also, water pollution from growing industries and deforestation in China has severely threatened the habitat of this dolphin.

Today, laws have been put in place to protect any remaining baiji dolphins in the Yangtze River. The same laws that protect the baiji also cover another threatened species known as the Yangtze finless porpoise.

Baiji Predators and Prey

Humans are the only predators of baiji dolphins though they are not eaten by people.

The diet of a baiji dolphin consists of small fish such as carp, yellow catfish, and copper fish. These fast dolphins are able to capture small fish and swallow them whole.

The conservation status of baijis is Critically Endangered.

Baiji Reproduction and Lifespan

Breeding season is in the spring and summer for the baiji dolphin. Though not much is known about their mating rituals, scientists know the gestation period of a female ranges from 6 to 12 months. She gives live birth to 1 baby also known as a calf.

The mother dolphin nurses her calf, teaches it how to swim as well as how to rise to the surface for air. A calf may nurse until the age of 18 months old. At that time, the mother dolphin begins to teach her calf how to hunt for small fish. A calf may stay with its mother for 3 to 6 years before becoming independent.

Male baijis become sexually mature at 6 years of age while females are sexually mature at 4 years old. One of the most interesting facts about this mammal is they can live to be 24 years old.

Baiji in Fishing and Cooking

It’s true that dolphin meat is a delicacy in some countries such as Japan. But baijis are not plentiful enough for humans to hunt and eat. Plus, they are now protected by law.

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About the Author

Ashley Haugen is a lifelong animal lover and professional writer and editor. When she's not immersed in A-Z-Animals.com, she can be found hanging out with her dogs and birds.

Baiji FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are baiji found?

Baijis live in the Yangtze River in China.

How big do bajis get?

They can grow to be 7.5 to 8.5 feet long and weigh around 360 pounds.

What do baijis eat?

The diet of this mammal includes small fish such as yellow catfish, carp, and copper fish.

Where do baijis live?

They live in a freshwater river habitat.

Is the baiji extinct?

Officially, baiji (scientific name: Liptodes vexillifer) are listed as Critically Endangered. There have been some unconfirmed sightings of these dolphins in the Yangtze River. But some scientists believe they are now extinct.

How many baiji are left in the world?

There is a debate as to exactly how many baiji are left in the world. Some groups of scientists say that there are 10 or fewer of them left. Other scientists believe there are none. However, there are a couple of facts to take into consideration.

One is that baiji dolphins have elusive behavior. Secondly, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia. This means these mammals have a lot of space to travel in their habitat.

So, just because no one has seen any baijis in a few years doesn’t mean they won’t reappear one day.

What Kingdom do Baijis belong to?

Baijis belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

How do Baijis have babies?

Baijis give birth to live young.

Sources
  1. BioExpedition, Available here: https://www.bioexpedition.com/baiji-dolphin/
  2. Yangtze River Cruise, Available here: https://www.yangtzeriver.org/yangtze-river-dolphin.htm
  3. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lipotes_vexillifer/

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