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Seaworld Conservationists publish research to Help Save the Endangered Yangtze Finless Porpoise

7th September 2019 - 12:30pm

Seaworld conservationists research to help save the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise

Seaworld conservationists research to help save the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise

Conservationists from SeaWorld and the Chinese Academy of Science publish foundational research to help save the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise.

 

Scientists at the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and SeaWorld analysed blood samples collected from hundreds of porpoises to establish health benchmarks for a species on the brink of extinction.

 

With less than 1,000 Yangtze finless porpoises (YFPs) believed to be left on the planet, SeaWorld, in collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, has published a new, foundational study in Frontiers in Physiology, establishing an official spectrum for biologists and veterinarians to determine if members of the species are healthy.

 

With YFPs increasingly exposed to man-made threats in their environments, such as over and illegal fishing, toxic by-products and acoustic pollutants, this study provides essential baseline data to evaluate the health of future populations — a first and foundational step toward reviving a species on the brink of extinction.

 

The YFP – cousin to the near-extinct vaquita off the Gulf of California – is a freshwater cetacean found in the Yangtze River, Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake in China. Due to pollution, overfishing, hydroelectric dams and shipping traffic, YFPs are listed as a critically endangered species.

 

Despite the importance of this population, no laboratory diagnostic tool had previously been established to provide guidelines for the health of each porpoise, regardless of sex, age or physiological state. Therefore, off-site conservation efforts were needed to accurately assess the population to ensure future protection.

 

Informed by years of blood samples collected from 188 porpoises between 2009 to 2017 and 2002 to 2015 respectively, the study establishes the first set of reference intervals for 49 veterinary laboratory tests, providing essential baseline data for future studies on the species.

 

Conservation research is a key component of SeaWorld’s larger commitment to conservation and animal welfare and was established as a priority by its founders before the parks opened five decades ago. This commitment includes sharing SeaWorld’s technical, veterinary and scientific expertise, as well as providing unprecedented access to animals to researchers, and funding and supporting field research projects around the world, made possible by the high calibre of care and attention given to the animals in its parks, and the millions of guests who visit every year. The animal health professionals and scientists at SeaWorld have contributed to more than 1,000 studies that advance the global scientific community’s understanding of marine animals.


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