A newborn dolphin, a small marine cousin of the dolphin, died at Ocean Park last night, where it had been born just 73 hours earlier. Its death came on the same day that two other finless porpoises were revealed to have been found dead on the city’s beaches.
The dead calf’s mother was said to have had a difficult labour, and her baby, a female, immediately displayed an abnormal swimming pattern. The theme park said she also found it difficult to stay alongside her mother when she was not suckling.
Necropsy results show the calf’s stomach was empty, and about 25 per cent of her lungs were not fully expanded. The theme park said it was not uncommon for dolphins to die in infancy, citing a previous study of dolphins in Western Australia, which showed 44 per cent of calves do not survive to three years of age.
Meanwhile, Mui Wo resident Leslie Parker said her son and his friend found the body of what was initially thought to be a seal or sea lion on the rocks near Lower Cheung Sha beach on Wednesday.
Officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Ocean Park’s Cetacean Stranding Response Team visited the site yesterday evening to conduct an autopsy. They removed the carcass for further examination.
A dolphin, which lacks a dorsal fin, may appear similar to a sea lion, said Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Dolphin Conservation Society. However, the porpoise has a smoother skin, with no hair, and it has a tail, while the sea lion has flippers. The species is considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“The six months between December and May have always been the time of the year when most strandings of dolphins are reported,” said Hung, adding that gillnet fishing was usually the cause of dolphin deaths in Hong Kong waters.
Yesterday morning, police received another report of a dead finless porpoise – this time a 158cm-long adult, which was discovered at a beach off Tai Wan Tau Road, Tseung Kwan O.
The Ocean Park response team were again sent to the scene and took a sample to find out the cause of death. A spokeswoman described it as “severely decomposed”, with signs of having been strangled by a fishing net. There were also bruises on its tail.
There were 32 reports of finless porpoise strandings last year.
Reported by the SCMP ON 2nd April, 2015