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.

3rd Dead Dolphin of 2015 Found Near the Airport

A team from the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF) yesterday (24/3/2015) examined the dead body of a Chinese white dolphin found in waters near the Hong Kong airport.

The carcass was first spotted floating off of the Brothers, a pair of islands to the northeast of the Hong Kong International Airport.

The team was unable to determine the cause of death since the body was severely decomposed, but samples were collected for further study.

“Unfortunately, we can only confirm the cause of death in less than 10 percent of cases, mainly because most of the carcasses are badly decomposed when discovered,” said Shadow Sin, the assistant manager of scientific projects for OPCF.

  

It’s the third cetacean stranding case reported so far this year. This month also so the death of the injured dolphin nick-named ‘Hope’.

Hong Kong’s Chinese white dolphins, widely known as pink dolphins, are threatened by habitat loss and marine traffic.

The range of pink dolphins in Hong Kong has shrunk substantially since the construction of the Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok.

If you spot a dead or distressed animal you should immediately call the Hong Kong government hotline at 1823. 

Images by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation

Hong Kong Pufferfish

I recently discovered the greenbluesea blog by Emilie. She is one of the few people doing underwater photography in HK (mostly) and this is a nice post about the HK pufferfish, which I recommend.

green blue sea ∙ 蔚藍碧海

HK Pufferfish

Juvenile Hong Kong Pufferfishes can be curious. Hello there!


I have picked Takifugu alboplumbeus to feature in this first ‘marine life’ post, because although it is a common species which is not only restricted to Hong Kong, it somehow has come to be commonly known as the Hong Kong Pufferfish. And also, well, would you just look at that little face.

The characteristic of pufferfishes is their ability to inflate their body, increasing their size dramatically. The fish triggers this defence mechanism by drawing water into a chamber near the stomach. Pufferfishes have beak-like teeth and small spines covering much of the body, though you wouldn’t think it from looking at these guys. Also, pufferfishes can be highly toxic if eaten; the notorious Japanese delicacy of ‘fugu’ which requires specialist preparation is in fact a pufferfish. Pufferfishes are omnivorous, feeding on worms, crustaceans, molluscs and algae amongst other things.

HK Pufferfish buried

Those divers can’t spot…

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Green Sea Turtle Found at Clear Water Bay Beach

The SCMP reported on Saturday (14/3/15) that a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) was discovered on Sheung Sze Wan beach in Clear Water Bay Saturday. The animal appeared to have breathing difficulties.

David Gething, a local vet who helped transport the animal said “It was breathing very, very heavily and had bubbles coming from its nose, which suggests it has fluid in its chest.” 

The reptile was picked up by SPCA staff and taken to Ocean Park.

Green sea turtles are known to have occurred and nested in Hong Kong in the past – as shown by such names as Turtle Cove – but have become very rare with Sham Wan on Lamma Island being one of the last remaining nesting sites.