Dolphins & Porpoise Found Dead During Lunar New Year

A dolphin concern group published on its social media page that one chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) and four finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides) were found stranded between Saturday the 17th and Monday the 19th of February. Autopsy scans found food remains in the dolphins, showing they were not starved to death. However, they showed multiple fractures. It is feared they were hit by motorboats as they had injuries on their heads and necks.

One finless porpoise was almost cut in half by what is thought to have been a boat propeller.

The adult Chinese white dolphin was found stranded at Mo To Chau. It was a 2.5-meter female, at least 10 years old, and with signs of choking, bone fractures and serious bone dislocation. The death of an adult female is a great loss to the species’ population growth, with numbers in Hong Kong down from over 120 some years ago to 47 at present.

In the past three years there have only been 3-4 stranded cetaceans in tyhe months of January and February. This year, more than 10 dead cetaceans have been discovered in the same period.

High-speed boats are always a big threat to dolphins and some might be hit by propellers and never be discovered. The Dolphin Conservation Society of Hong Kong (HKDCS) has urged the government to launch a speed restrictions on boats around dolphin and porpoise habitats or even ban them from entering these areas.

According to the HKDCS only one new-born Chinese white dolphin was recorded last year. With the loss of another adult female dolphin, there is a dwindling chance of recovery of the local population.

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Injured Chinese White Dolphin Caught and Under Care of Ocean Park

The Chinese white dolphin injured in Hong Kong waters in January (2015) was caught last Friday (6th of February) after 18 days of search efforts and sent to Ocean Park for treatment.

The animal, nicknamed ‘Hope’ , was found off Shek Pik, on southern Lantau Island, by experts from Ocean Park (amusement park) and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department who had been searching for the dolphin since January 20.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

The team captured it using a specially adapted net and a sedative to slow the dolphin down. The  preliminary health assessment found multiple serious wounds with three exposed vertebrae in front of its tail. Also the caudal (tail) vertebrae in front of its fluke was cut through and Hope suffered at least 4 deep transversal wounds on its tail stock, extending back from its dorsal fin toward the tail.

Over the next few days Hope will have 24-hour care and undergo a thorough examination – including X-rays, ultrasound, bacterial swabs and blood tests – and receive medical treatment at the hands of experts from the park, the conservation department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

The dolphin is a male, 2.3 metres long and weighs 135 kg. It was first spotted by a group of University of Hong Kong students off the Lantau village of Tai O on January 16. They saw severe cuts on its fin and back, probably caused by the propeller of an outboard motor.

Some marine conservation specialists argued that it should be left to recover in the wild. Images of the wounded animal were circulated on the internet, causing widespread concern and pressure that probably led to the current capture.

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

Chinese white dolphins are a protected species in the city, with only 60 of them living in Hong Kong waters.

Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, who inspected the dolphin after its rescue, said there was no immediate threat to its survival, but judging from its condition it faced a long road to recovery.

Yesterday’s success was the sixth attempt to capture the animal. The society provided a boat for the search team to use in the operation, and sent its own team to observe the process. Asked whether the rescue procedure had caused any further injury to the dolphin, Hung said his society had shot a video of the rescue process for the park to release and it was better to leave that judgment to the public. Watch the capture of the dolphin posted by Apple Daily here.

HK Marine Life’s Opinion:

It is questionable whether the dolphin can recover from such severe injuries. Only the veterinarian and experts can judge that. But the public should know that Ocean Park for many years ran a so-called captive breeding program for dolphins that in reality managed to kill 10 times more dolphins than were born. In fact the survivorship of healthy dolphins in captivity is preety poor. A study published in 1994 examined survivorship of dolphins and whales at Ocean Park (article online here), and showed that Ocean park was not unique – all captive dolphins and whales have relatively poor survivorship.
The dolphins injuries look extremely severe. A severed or partially severed vertebrae in front of the fluke would deprive it of proper locomotion and condemn it to early death. Now if the dolphin were to die as a direct or indirect result of these injuries, the humane question to ask would be how and where should it die? In the wild where it grew up where its social contacts are? Or alone in a clinical tank at Ocean Park.
Dr Hung has been very cautious in his statements. Part of the reason may be his well-founded opposition to Ocean Park’s dolphin facilities which serve to foster public appetite for dolphin shows and captive dolphins (see SCMP articel here).

Chinese White Dolphin’s Back Slashed Likely Caused by Outboard Motor

A Chinese white dolphin was spotted off the coast of Tai O with slash injuries across its fin and back believed to have been caused by a collision with a tour boat’s outboard motor.

Despite the injuries – some of which appear to be several inches deep – a marine scientist who observed the dolphin believes it still has a fighting chance. But tour guides operating dolphin-spotting excursions were warned to steer clear of it.

The dolphin was found near Tai O village at around 4.30pm on Saturday (17th of January 2015). Video and photos taken by members of the University of Hong Kong Swire Institute of Marine Science, clearly show the dolphin swimming along with large gashes on its back and tail.

Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Samuel Hung suspected they have been caused by propeller cuts from the outboard engine of a walla-walla – a type of small motorboat common in local waters which are often seen in the area for dolphin-spotting tours.

“The injuries are very serious,” said Hung, but despite the cuts the dolphin appeared “surprisingly tough” and was seen swimming, rolling around and even feeding on fish near the water’s surface.

Many more motorised tour boats arrived at the scene to view the injured dolphin by late Saturday afternoon putting the animal at greater risk. Hung urged all tour boats not to get too close to the dolphin. He also said that at this point, based on its behaviour, the dolphin would not require further intervention such as rescue or rehabilitation. “The last thing we want to do is to disturb this animal further,” he said.

The 2013 survey estimate of the number of dolphins in west, northwest and northeast Lantau areas is 62 dolphins (similar to the 2012 estimate). That is the lowest of the past decade.

HK Airport 3rd Runway Risks Loss of Hong Kong’s Remaining Dolphin Population

Conservationists claim that only three sightings of Chinese white dolphins have been recorded in Hong Kong this year.
The population of Hong Kong’s Chinese White Dolphins has dropped by 60% since 1997 in what the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) calles an ecological disaster. Since 1997 the dolphin’s habitat saw the completion of the Chek Lap Kok International Airport, wave after wave of town development in Tung Chung and Tuen Mun, a landfill development and more recently, the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project which is still ongoing. This HKDCS says has almost destroyed the white dolphins habitat.

According to statistics, there were 158 white dolphins in Hong Kong in 2003 but this number fell to 62 last year (2013) – a drop of 60% -causing great concern. In addition the current scheme to build a third runway at the airport, would cover an area of 650 hectares and would be the second largest reclamation project ever and is loacted in the white dolphins habitat. But the Airport Authority so far refuses to set meet with environmental groups and refuses to give full explanation of data and has been jointly criticized by nine environmental groups. It is currently understood that the Airport Authority will soon publish and interim Environmental Impact Assessment report on the third runway project and a 30th public consultation will be held.

WWF Infographic showing threats to the chinese white dolphin in Hong Kong (click to enlarge to original size)
WWF Infographic showing threats to the chinese white dolphin in Hong Kong (click to enlarge to original size)

The construction works have forced the dolphins to move further west as the noise affects their navigation and communication skills and the barges parked in the harbor creates sediment blooms affecting their food supply. Either that or they’ve died and or giving less birth.

Samuel Hung, President of Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, urged the public to make good use of 30th consultation to express their views and take concrete actions to protect white dolphins. The Hong Kong dolphin conservation, Hong Kong Friends of the Earth and public Professional Union has conducted a “social cost and the returns assessment” study to estimate the effects of the third runway project’s on the public and its social effects which found that the white dolphin could earn Hong Kong some HKD 36.1 billion over ten years in ecological tourism revenue.

Pod of Pink Dolphins Accompanies Record-Breaking Pearl River Delta Swimmer

Last weekend Simon Holliday, 35, set a record for the crossing of the Pearl River Delta in a time of 10 hours, 20 minutes, and 30 seconds, beating the time of Beijing swimmer Zhang Jian who swam across in 10 hours 30 minutes in 2005.
‘There were tough moments – lots of big tankers in the start, and lots of time to contemplate what I was doing, but the jellyfish didn’t appear, and instead, the dolphins did, for over an hour!’ Holliday was accompanied by a pod of pink dolphins, obviously keen to support another ‘pink’ thing swimming in the murky waters of the Pearl River Delta. Pink dolphins are a massively endangered species, mostly on account of habitat degradation and destruction. ‘It was one of the most amazing moments of my life to see them around us for so long, even though I had to keep my head down and kept going.’
Doug Woodring of the Ocean Recovery Alliance said: ‘I’ve never seen so many dolphins – at one point there was around 30 of them. Today was not just a great day for the ocean, but a great day for Hong Kong open-water swimming.’

Holliday began his swim at 5am from Peaked Hill (Kai Yet Kok), on the west edge of Lantau Island, Hong Kong and swam approximately 35km to Hac Sa Beach in Macau, arriving at [3:40pm]. The swim has raised over $250,000 HKD for Ocean Recovery Alliance and their project Grate Art, which brings together eight local and Chinese artists to create plaques used to remind people not to dump into drains on the street, as these sometimes flow into the ocean.

Asked the first thing he was going to do after emerging from the water, Holliday remarked: ‘I am going to have a pint of beer, in a glass.’

Simon Holliday is an open-water swimmer based in Hong Kong. Simon swam across the English Channel in August 2011 and has done several long swims around the UK and Ireland.

Ocean Recovery Alliance brings together new ways of thinking, technologies, creativity and collaborations in order to introduce innovative projects and initiatives that help to improve our ocean environment. It has two projects with the Clinton Global Initiative focused on the reduction of plastic pollution, and is one of the only NGOs in the world to be working with both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans. It also organises Kids Ocean Day in Hong Kong, Hong Kong-San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival (May 6-11, 2014), and the international business forum, Plasticity, on the future of plastic, where is can be used, without the ‘footprint.’

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Simon Holliday (swimming) and Shu Pu (paddling) from Hong Kong to Macau – Jeffrey Yim

Source: Ocean Recovery Alliance