Pollution and over-fishing have wiped out a third of the fish species in the Yellow river - China's second longest waterway. This from Jonathan Watts in Beijing on 18 January 2007 reporting for Guardian Unlimited
. The extinction toll strengthens fears that China's major rivers are losing their ability to support life as the country's rapid economic growth takes an increasingly heavy toll on the environment. Winding 5,390km from the Tibetan plateau to the Bohai sea, the Yellow River is often described as the cradle of Chinese civilization. But in recent years, it has become synonymous with the over-exploitation of natural resources. As well as providing water for more than 155 million people and 15% of China's farmland, the river has been heavily dammed to generate hydroelectric power. Another Chinese river - the biggest in fact - has lost one of its most famous species. The Yangtze River dolphin, until recently one of the most endangered species on the planet, has been declared officially extinct following an intensive survey of its natural habitat. In Guardian Unlimited
, a report by Ian Sample 8 August 2007 says that the freshwater marine mammal, which could grow to eight feet long and weigh up to a quarter of a tonne, is the first large vertebrate forced to extinction by human activity in 50 years. Conservationists described the extinction as a 'shocking tragedy', caused not by active persecution but accidentally and carelessly through a combination of factors including unsustainable fishing and mass shipping. In the 1950s, the Yangtze River and neighbouring watercourses had a population of thousands of freshwater dolphins, also known as Baiji, but their numbers have declined dramatically since China industrialised and transformed the Yangtze into a crowded artery of mass shipping, fishing and power generation.