An oil spill reported in the Pearl River estuary close to the Qingzhou Island and Guishan Island has so far not entered Hong Kong waters. A few vessels were either stranded or sank in the wake of typhoon Hato.The Hong Kong Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre was informed of the spill by the Guangdong Search and Rescue Centre. Mainland maritime authorities have undertaken a cleanup and the HK Marine Department has begun patrols southwest of Lantau Island. Aerial surveillance carried out has so far not shown the spilled oil drifting into Hong Kong waters.
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.
On Saturday (9/1/2016) morning, a dead juvenile green turtle was found dead and entangled in a fishing net near Pui O Wan on the south of Lantau Island.
The turtle was not yet mature, and its shell measured about 60 cm in length. A necropsy performed by the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department (AFCD) found nothing abnormal. Officials were unable to determine the animal’s sex.
Iain Brymer, a 49-year-old Expat found the dead turtle near a rocky shore about a kilometre into paddling his outrigger canoe from Pui O Wan to Chi Ma Wan Peninsula.
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
‘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.
The Chinese white dolphin injured in Hong Kong waters in January (2015) was caught last Friday (6th of February) after 18 days of search efforts and sent to Ocean Park for treatment.
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).