Qiqi was a white-finned dolphin, a species unique to China, and the most endangered dolphin species in the world.
When found, Qiqi was a badly bruised two-year-old. Experts examining him suspected the injuries were caused by illegal fishing, condemned as one of the main factors contributing to the decline of white dolphins in the wild. Numbers have fallen from some 400 in the early 1980s to far fewer than 100 now.
The Fishery Bureau of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has warned that the ancient mammal species, which has survived 20 to 30million years of evolution, may face extinction within another 25 years unless effective measures are immediately enforced.
China has tried every means to save the white dolphins. The Fishery Bureau has carried out a program monitoring Yangtze white-finned dolphins every November since 1997, the largest such monitoring program of rare animals in China. The search covers a 1,900-km stretch of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
However, only five to seven dolphins have been sighted each season, even with the use of advanced location devices.