Spotted Seal Pup Dies at Ocean Park

Ocean Park is investigating what the accidental death of a year-old male spotted seal.

The seal died during an incident at about 2.30pm on Monday (1/6/2015) during a backwash cycle on filters at the Polar Adventure attraction which opened in 2012 and features different species of penguins, walruses, seals and sealions. In subtropical Hong Kong the energy-intensive attraction is kept at 8-10 degrees C for species native to the South Pole, with 15 to 17 degrees C for North Pole species.

The accident appeared to be the result of the animal becoming trapped against an outlet during the backwash operation, but the exact cause of death had not been confirmed after an examination of the body was carried out on Monday.

The dead seal had been born in captivity at the park.

Animal deaths are quite a frequent occurrence at Ocean Park. In 2014, 59 fish died at the Ocean Aquarium due to human error. Also in 2014, 2 rare Chinese sturgeons died from viral infections.

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Dolphin Hope Died in an Aquarium – Scared and Alone – Was That Humane?

‘Hope’, the Chinese White Dolphin injured by a boat propeller in January, was euthanised on February 10th after its bodily functions started to shut down overnight. Hope was first sighted by university students on January 16 with large wounds on its back that were so deep they exposed the marine mammal’s vertebrae. The spines above its fluke was completely severed.

Bowing to intense public pressure and activist lobbying, ‘rescuers’ located and caught it 18 days later at Lantau’s Shek Pik area. He was then handed over by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to Ocean Park’s rehabilitation facilities, where he was given fish, tubing fluids and antibiotics and where a vet cleaned the wounds.

Initially there were some signs of slight recovery as carers attempted to help him regain the loss of more than 20 percent of his body weight (up to 50 kg), after at least three weeks of limited feeding, by hand feeding him fish .

But his condition only deteriorated overnight (10-11th of February) and it failed to respond to treatment. He began regurgitating his food and his breathing became weak. His body temperature started to drop and he lost buoyancy.

A necropsy and a virtopsy will be performed to investigate the extent of Hope’s wounds, internal organ damage and infection to allow park staff to as much as possible for the care of any future injured dolphins. 

 As mentioned in my previous post on Hope’s capture, Ocean Park and almost every other captive dolphin facility have a pretty poor record at keeping even healthy dolphins alive, let alone rehabilitating them (successes are the exception that prove the rule).
But activists and the general public were not satisfied with this or the prospect of the dolphin simply dying in the sea, so the animal was ‘rescued’ and transferred to a sterile, featureless and alien environment (tank) in a operation that would have increased stress levels, where it was then completely alone without even the possibility of acoustic contact with other members of its own species. The chances, as Ocean Park’s vet in charge even said, were always slim for such severe injuries. So faced with the highly likely death of the dolphin – it was decided it should die all alone – scared and stressed – in addition to its painful and fatal injuries.

Many people harbor feelings of passive misanthropy – a latent hatred of humanity, because we all know humans are screwing up the environment. The result is a desperate need to ‘fix’ the situation. Consequently, scientific opinion is frequently dismissed and even attacked, if it advises the public to not act. In the case of Hope the dolphin, HK’s leading expert on local dolphins  Dr Samuel Hung was publicly criticised and his reputation damaged because he advised leaving the dolphin alone. Scientifically that was the right call. But most people did not want to hear that. People like to humanize dolphins and that is good in some ways, in fact it helps their conservation to some extent. But the humanising of animals serves primarily human emotional needs to love and care for another living being. The side effects can be both positive and negative. 

The ‘rescue’ of Hope was dubbed a ‘humane act’, but if you think it through the vast majority of humans, if we could chose the setting of our own death, would want to die in familiar surroundings with family and friends present. The prospect of our final moments being born out in a clinical, chlorinated prison cell completely alone except for the watchful eyes of the group of aliens who removed us from our homes and put us in the cell. This sadly is how Hope met his end.

What is interesting, too, is that the same activists who insisted on putting this dolphin in a marine-themed amusement park facility, also adamantly campaign against this dolpinarium facilities at the same time.  This indicates to me that there is not a rational reason behind the rescue, but more of an emotional one.

So there we have the even sadder end of an already sad tale. Sometimes ‘rescuing animals’ can be the worst thing to do.

Human Error Kills 59 Fish at Ocean Park

In the early morning of the 3rd of July (2014) 59 fish were found dead at Ocean Parks aquarium,

including a breeding pair of bamboo sharks, two rays and some other fish .

The park said the event was caused by human error, and that the employees involved would receive disciplinary action and that procedures would be reviewed additional sensors installed. An inquiry found that the deaths were the result of a lack of oxygen in the water which lead to the fish suffocating. Normally procedures for tank maintenance allow staff to switch of the wave generator that oxygenates the water for up to 6 hours without causing harm to the fish. In this instance it was switched off for water treatment projects to be carried out, but staff failed to then properly restart it.

Ocean Park has not made a press release available.

Source: RTHK, 14/7/2014

Hong Kong’s First Three Spotted Seals Born in Ocean Park

Sammy, one of the three baby spotted seals, currently sports a fluffy coat that he will shed in about a month’s time. Photo: Nora Tam
The first spotted seals were born in Hong Kong between Apr. 13 and May 4. All the seals are male and named Ocean, Sonny and Sammy. They are the offspring of three different seals from Dalian in the mainland.

The baby seals each weighed between 18kg and 38kg now, up from about 10kg after their birth, said Polar Adventure curator Philip Wong Wing-hong. The boys sport fluffy coats at birth, but two have already shed them. The youngest squirt, Sammy, is expected to do so about a month later. “Sonny is the most energetic of the three. He swam for the first time just 32 hours after he was born,” he said. “Ocean is the friendliest and loves interacting with the trainers.”

The spotted seal – the only type of seal found in China – can live up to 35 years and weigh a maximum of 130kg.

The spotted seal (Phoca largha, Phoca vitulina largha), also known as the larga or largha inhabits ice floes and waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. It is primarily found along the continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk Seas and south to the northern Yellow Sea and it migrates south as far as northern Huanghai and the western Sea of Japan. It is also found in Alaska from the southeastern Bristol Bay to Demarcation Point during the ice-free seasons of summer and autumn when spotted seals mate and have pups. Smaller numbers are found in the Beaufort Sea.

Fluffy newborn Sonny gets its first taste of the cameras. He is the most energetic of the three, taking a swim just a day after it was born. Photo: SCMP Pictures
The reduction in arctic ice floes due to global warming led to concerns that the spotted seal was threatened with extinction. In South Korea, spotted seals have been designated Natural Monument No. 331 and second-class endangered species. This is because the seals from South Korea travel to Dalian, China to breed every year where several thousands are harvested for their genitals and sealskin to be sold on the black market for Chinese medicine. An environmental activist group Green Korea United is currently working closely with local Chinese government to stop the seals from being poached by Chinese fishermen. In China the seals are covered under category 2 of the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Law.

The newborn seals are born with a coat of fluffy fur which they shed one month later, and they usually dip into the water three days after birth.

Two of the mothers, Qiao Niu and Lisa, were born in the Dalian Lao Hu Tan Ocean Park while the other was from the Dalian Sun Asia Ocean World.

The parents of Qiao Niu and Lisa were rescued after the four seals were accidentally caught by fishermen near the seaport. The Lao Hu Tan Ocean Park cared for them before releasing them back into the wild last year.

Visitors can visit the seals at Ocean Park this summer. The park has a total of six bulls and seven cows.

Update on the Striped Dolphin That Stranded and Died in Sai Kung

The dolphin was 2m long dolphin and died after becoming stranded on the beach at Tung Wan, part of the popular Tai Long Wan area in Sai Kung.

Three hikers found the mammal in trouble at about 5pm on Saturday and helped to keep it alive, according to an Ocean Park spokesman.

Staff at the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department came to assist in the rescue about four and a half hours later. “The dolphin was found injured with visible external wounds,” an Ocean Park spokesman said.

A picture taken during the effort showed rescuers attempting to move the injured dolphin using a large piece of material.

The 68kg dolphin was taken to Ocean Park for treatment but eventually died from its injuries yesterday afternoon.

“Given the dolphin was extremely weak and had multiple external wounds. It was already a miracle that we were able to bring it back to Ocean Park for treatment after it was found beached in Sai Kung,” said Suzanne Gendron, director of the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation.

The dolphin eventually died. “Necropsy of the dolphin indicated acute hemorrhagic pneumonia and associated sepsis involving all lymph nodes, liver and spleen,” Ocean Park said.

Since 2006, there have been more than 229 cases of cetaceans becoming stranded in Hong Kong waters.

In March, 2014, the carcass of a 10.8-metre whale was found off Hung Shek Mun, in Plover Cove Country Park, and in 2009, a 10-metre-long humpback whale was spotted in Hong Kong waters, believed to be the first sighting of the species in the city.

In 2003, a sperm whale was found washed up at Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung, and in 1994, the carcass of a Bryde’s whale was found in Tolo Harbour.

Chinese sturgeons die from viral infection at Ocean Park

Ocean Park reported yesterday that two of their recently imported rare Chinese sturgeons (Acipenser sinensis) died at the park yesterday.

The sturgeons were imported from the mainland China on February 18th with 13 other fish. The two sturgeons were found to be swimming abnormally on April 21st. By May 11th they were given immediate support but still died shortly after.

Ocean Park found one sturgeon died of a gill infection and the other had infections in several internal organs.

Wild Chinese sturgeons are critically endangered and protected species that have existed for a 140 million years. Most sturgeon are anadromous meaning they spawn in fresh water and migrate to salt water to mature. Historically this fish was found in China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but it has been extirpated from most regions due to habitat loss and overfishing. They dwell along the coasts of China’s eastern areas and migrate back up rivers to reproduce when they reach sexual maturity. Although females carry in excess of a million eggs in one pregnancy, the Chinese sturgeon’s reproductive capacity is poor because it only breeds three or four times during its life and the survival rate to hatching is estimated to be less than 1 percent.