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.