Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Y is for Yangtze river dolphins (Folktales of Endangered Species)

Welcome to the 2020 A to Z blogging challenge! This year my theme is Folktales of Endangered Species. I am researching cool traditional stories about rare, fascinating animals - to raise awareness of what we might lose if we don't get our collective shit together. Enjoy!

Species: Yangtze river dolphin or baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis)

Status: Declared "functionally extinct" in 2006 (possibly critically endangered); Critically endangered

The Goddess of the Yangtze
Chinese legend

Most legends agree that the white river dolphin was once a human woman. There are many different versions of what happened to her, but they all agree that she jumped or fell into the river and drowned. Because she was pure of spirit, she was transformed into the river dolphin, and lived on as the Goddess of the Yangtze. In many stories the evil man or hurt her/killed her also fell into the water, and became the finless porpoise or "river pig."

In some stories the stepfather of the girl tries to take advantage of her while they are crossing the river, and she jumps into the water to escape him. In others, she falls in love with a poor man below her standing, and they are forbidden to meet, so she either kills herself, or drowns while trying to cross the rived to be with him. In a third variant, she was a princess who was being forced to marry a man she didn't love, and when she refused her father drowned her as punishment. Whatever the cause, the girl was rewarded for her pure heart by turning into a beautiful dolphin goddess, while the man that tried to hurt her became a porpoise. 

Sources: Read the story here, here, here, or here.

How can I help?

While the river dolphin has been declared extinct, experts are fighting for preserving its habitat (the Yangtze River) in case new specimens are found. Read about conservation efforts here, here, or here.
Read about conservation efforts of the finless porpoise here or here.

Do you think the river dolphin is still out there somewhere? Might they come back one day?


  1. It breaks my heart that these mythical creatures may be extinct. Interesting that the folk tale variations all have men trying to harm her?

  2. I like to think they aren't extinct. I also hold out hope that the Tasmanian tiger may be around too.

  3. I do hope they find some of these dolphins after all.

  4. All the tales repeat man's pattern--perhaps there is a lesson in all these tales for us to open our eyes to!

  5. Oh I hope they are hiding somewhere and will come back one day... Beautiful dolpins. There is always a princess in the tales ;)
    Y is for Young

  6. so sad to read that this lovely dolphin is most likely extinct. Dolphins are amazing. I wish we could understand their language!

  7. Well, what cute tales. I didn't know there was different kinds of dolphins. Like this one... it has such a long mouth. Never seen this kind before. I've never seen a dolphin before, but I'd like to one day. They're so friendly and loving. Nice stories and thanks for sharing. Take care, Stay safe, Stay healthy and STAY HOME!

  8. I think they are hiding and will come back out when we are gone.

  9. It's heart-breaking these lovely animals are functionally extinct. I truly hope a secret tribe of them are safe somewhere and will eventually thrive one day. I love all dolphins, but river dolphins especially.

  10. Interesting legend. I've never heard of this type of dolphin before...

    An A-Z of Faerie: Krampus

  11. I do hope that they are not extinct! I loved the folk tales