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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Yesterday we spent a fantastic morning doing some dolphin watching with HK Dolphinwatch. Leaving from the Tung Chung New Development Pier at Tung Chung we cruised along north Lantau towards Tai O, where we then encountered a group of 5-6 Indopacific Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis), know locally as Chinese White Dolphins or simply the pink dolphins. They gave us plenty to look at with tail-splashing, jumping and coming in quite close to the boat. While I am no photographer and have no clue how to use my Nikon DSLR, I think the resulting pictures are still pretty good.
If you have kids, this is probably the No.1 outing for your budding marine biologists, not just because of the dolphins (always popular!), but also because you and your kids can see the impact humans have on wildlife right there in front of you. Among the many threats thatthe dolphins face, the latest one is the Macao-Zhuhai-Bridge being constructed right through their habitat, as well as the proposed 3rd runway for the Chek Lap Kok airport. Before the Chek Lap Kok airport was build there were thought to be aroudn 150+ dolphins in the area. Then came the blasting and levelling off of the small island of Chek Lap Kok which was then used to fill in a 9 square kilometer area for the airport as well as surrounding infrastructure and development. And then the construction of the Macao-Zhuhai-Bridge started. Now it is just 60 odd. Why? Among the reasons surely is noise. As most people will know, dolphins don’t just communicate with sound, they also use it for echolocation especially in the murky and muddy waters of estuaries where our pink dolphins live.
The below video was made and posted to Vimeo by Sea Shephard Hong Kong and shows you just how bad the noise levels in the dolphins habitat are.
Underwater construction noise is the equivalent of shining flood lights in humans faces. Imagine trying to make your breakfast, work, do the supermarket shopping, take care of children or hold a normal conversation while all the time someone pointing a search light in your face thats constantly flickering – you would not get much done! And you would be super stressed.
Thats how the dolphins feel – and these constructions projects last several years!
But there is more: add sewage, heavy boat traffic and high speed ferries, toxic algal blooms, heavy metal contamination, PCB’s and organochlorides, flame retardant chemicals to the mix and the fact that there is little to eat because the seas are so overfished and the seabed was trawled so heavily that it does not support much in the way of food production anymore.
Sticking with the dolphin-human analogy: not only would you suffer from blinding lights day-in-day-out for years, your children might be stillborn or die soon after birth because your body passed to your child environmental contaminats from the little food you could find in these famine conditions. And then cars, trucks and trains constantly bomb through your garden and house unpredictably, frequently maiming or even killing a member of your family or a neighbor.
In short, you can see, that you would not want to be reborn as a pink dolphin in Hong Kong!
Unless we start to do something about it. Check out the below links to find out more about how you can help.
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.’