Bacterial respiratory illnesses are problematic in aquatic mammals such as the Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis; YFP), which is now at a critically endangered status. Yet little is known about the bacteria inhabiting the respiratory tract of YFPs. In this study, we preliminarily characterized the culturable aerobic bacteria from blow samples of captive YFPs. The bacterial diversity was assessed through cultivation by direct exhalation onto Columbia blood agar plates and identification of representative isolates through 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. In total, eleven bacterial species belonging to four phyla Proteobacteria (71 %), Firmicutes (25 %), Bacteroidetes (3 %) and Actinobacteria (1 %) were identified. Most of these isolates were opportunistic pathogens found in respiratory illnesses in humans and animals. We also reported the first case of Kerstersia gyiorum isolated from an animal. This work provides a preliminary assessment of the bacteria present in the respiratory tract of captive YFPs, which will be an important first step in elucidating the roles of normal microbiota in maintaining respiratory health of YFPs. This study also points out the necessity of future long-term monitoring of blowhole microorganisms in the YFPs and making emergency preparedness plans for respiratory tract infections. These measures can aid in assessing the pathogenic risk of the critically endangered YFP populations.