Tag Archives: dolphin

Fourth Dead Cetacean Found in 1 Week

A dead finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) was found in Discovery Bay on Sunday afternoon, the fourth dead marine mammal discovered in four days after the bodies of three dolphins were discovered on Thursday.
It was found in the water and handed over to the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation for an autopsy. The OPCFHK said that the porpoise was a 1.55 metre long female and the body had reached the fourth stage of decomposition. Its cause of death has yet to be determined.

On Thursday, the bodies of three Chinese white dolphins (Sousa chinensis) were found – one entangled in fishing wire near Lido Beach in Sham Tseng, one in waters near Lamma Island and another in Fan Kwai Tong off Lantau Island.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) estimate that there has been a decline since 2014, when 61 dolphins were estimated to be in Hong Kong waters.

Sai Wan Ho Dead Dolphin Turns Out To Be Dwarf or Pygmy Sperm Whale

The dead dolphin I posted about yesterday has been reclassified as either a dearf or Pygmy sperm whale by AFCD and Ocean Park Conservation Fund staff. The two-metre-long decomposing whale was found a few metres from the marine police base at Tai Hong Street in Sai Wan Ho.

It is believed it was a male dwarf sperm whale, but a genetic test is needed to confirm its species. The other possibility is its relative, the pygmy sperm whale. Both species are rare in local waters.
Dwarf sperm whales and pygmy sperm whales are extremely similar and usually indistinguishable when spotted at sea. They are widely distributed in tropical and temperate zones of all the world’s oceans.

The first and only recorded local sighting of a dwarf sperm whale was in 1991. There were four previous local discoveries of pygmy sperm whales, with the most recent in 2014.

Suspected Mui Wo Shark is Actually a Dolphin

Marine police on Saturday (7th May 2016) searching for a shark in Silvermine Bay after a beach-goer reported that he might have seen a shark outside the shark net. The life guards raised the red flag and a police launch and government flying service helicopter were dispatched. But witnesses interviewed by Apple Daily also suggested it may have swum more like a dolphin than a shark. Apple Daily posted a video on their site  here. You can see the “shark” at the 1:00 minute mark. It’s definitely a dolphin.

Young Dolphin in Tuen Mun Marina

A young pantropical spotted dolphin was seen swimming in the Gold Coast Marina in Tuen Mun. The dolphin is estimated to be about 1 m in length, has apparently been in the area for over a day, with Apple Daily reporting that it had been stuck for 27 hours at around 2pm yesterday (27/1/16).
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) was then notified, and sent three officers to observe the situation.

While Apple Daily maintains that the young cetacean is trapped by the boats in the harbour, President of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, Hung Ka-yiu, told Hong Kong Animal Post that he believes the dolphin was simply lost and would not require human assistance at the moment.

Hung identified the dolphin as a young pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), a species often seen in Taiwan, but not common in Hong Kong’s waters, and the second most abundant dolphin species in the world. Hung also theorised that the dolphin was only in Hong Kong by mistake, and said he hoped it would eventually find its way back out to the ocean.

The AFCD said it would discuss future measures with dolphin experts at Ocean Park, and reminded yachtowners not to disturb the animal.

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.

Short-Finned Pilot Whale Washes Up Dead Near Nim Shue Wan, Lantau

It appears that shortly after the first sighting of a short-finned pilot in Hong Kong (see post from January 14th), we now have the first stranding of a dead short-finned pilot whale. Ocean Park’s Cetacean Stranding Response Team investigated an adult female short-finned pilot whale stranding case today at Cheung Sha Lan, Discovery Bay. It’s 365cm long and as the carcass was severely decomposed, the cause of death cannot be determined. The Team and a veterinarian have done a necropsy on site. The preliminary findings show:

• A 12cm superficial wound was found near the fluke, though it unclear if this is pre-mortem or post-mortem
• A thin blubber layer of 1.5cm (mean blubber layer thickness of adult female short-finned pilot whale is 1.91cm), indicating that the dolphin was relatively thin and weak

Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF
Image: OPCF

The team sent the head, flippers and dorsal fin to Hong Kong Veterinary Imaging Centre for Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, and collected tissue samples for further testing.

Many people asked if this short-finned pilot whale is the same one people sighted at Tsim Sha Tsui on January 13. The dorsal fins on cetaceans have unique characteristics that allow identification of individuals, but since the dolphin’s dorsal fin was severely decomposed, no identification can be made as yet. Yet, as short-finned pilot whales are rare in Hong Kong, and the length of the carcass is similar to the estimated length of the pilot whale sighted in Tsim Sha Tsui (about 3 meter), the possibility can not be ruled out that they are the same individual.

In case you are wondering how this white carcass could have come from a black short-finned pilot whale: this often happens to decomposing whales and dolphins. I once saw a 0.5 m Finless porpoise washed up dead at the Cape D’Aguilar Marine Reserve. Normally Finless Porpoises are black, but the carcass was also white.

Before and After Images of Dolphin Injured by Boat Propeller

The dolphin recently spotted with terrible dorsal fin and back injuries likely caused by an outboard motor has been identified as an individual frequently spotted in Hong Kong waters off Lantau Island (see map below). The individual designated WL212 was identified by cross-referencing against a photographic database of dorsal fin markings. This allows us to make the before and after comparison of the injuries in the featured image courtesy of the HKDCS (HK Dolphin Conservation Society).

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All images from HKDCS