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).

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Finless Porpoise Dies After Fishing Net Entaglement

A sub-adult male finless porpoise measuring 1.43 m in length was found stranded at South Channel, Tap Mun last Sunday (17th August 2014). Tap Mun (also known as Grass Island) is in the northeast New Territories close to the Hoi Ha Wan marine park. According to marine police it was found entangled in fishing nets. The presence of net entanglement, CT scan images by Ocean Park Conservation Fund and the necropsy indicate that the porpoise as a result of net entanglement and likely drowned. Vets also found multiple abscesses I. Both left and right lungs suggesting chronic pneumonia. The porpoise also had lesions and bruising that suggest struggling in a net.

Finless porpoises (Neophocaena phocaenoides) along with the Chinese White dolphins (Sousa chinensis) are the only two cetaceans resident all year round in Hong Kong waters. This is the 34th cetacean stranding in 2014. Entanglement in fishing nets is the top cause of cetacean strandings in Hong Kong.

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Source: Ocean Park Conservation Fund

32nd Pink Dolphin Stranding for 2014

Ocean Park Conservation Fund (OPCF) HK’s Cetacean Stranding Response Team is investigating a Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) stranding case yesterday (10th August 2014). A female adult measuring 2.53 m in length was found with bruises near the blowhole and both left and right flippers. Because the body was severely decomposed, the cause of death could not be readily determined and OPCF collected samples for further examination.

This case brings the total number of stranding case this year to 32. Please call 1823 to report any strandings.

OPCF staff examine the body of the 32nd stranding of 2014. (Image by OPCF)
OPCF staff examine the body of the 32nd stranding of 2014. (Image by OPCF)

Sustainable Seafood Message from Ocean Park Conservation Fund