Dolphins Make Rare Appearance off Coast of Hong Kong, but Experts Say Species Is Still on the Decline
The number of dolphins in Hong Kong has declined as much as 80 percent over the last 15 years, according to conservation groups.
Dolphins have made a reappearance in Hong Kong waters thanks to a cut in ferry services that conservationists say makes for a hostile environment for the sea mammals, according to a report by The New York Times.
Chinese white dolphins are a rare species known for their rose-flush color they get from swimming in warm waters. The marine mammal is usually found in areas of coastal south China and Southeast Asia, but in a unique sighting, the dolphins were recently found swimming along the Pearl River Delta, the Times reported.
The number of dolphins in Hong Kong has declined by as much as 80% over the last 15 years, according to a report published by conversation groups and regional universities. The largest population of the Chinese white dolphin has been identified at the Pearl River with an estimated 2,000 individuals, according to the report.
But due to an array of human activities, including the city recently constructing a new bridge that connects the west side of the city and a new airport runway, the dolphin population has witnessed a steep decline in the river's delta, the Times reported.
Researchers say it is more likely that less boat traffic has brought dolphins back to their habitat and not that the populations are rebounding.
"What we have documented fairly clearly is that dolphins are moving back out into the ferry zone," Laurence McCook, who heads the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong, told the Times. "That actually is their most prime habitat under current circumstances."
The reproductive rate of dolphins is considerably low so the mission for conservationists is to "keep the population healthy," Vincent Ho, the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, told the Times. Dolphins can stay with their mothers from their birth for as long as eight or nine years and live into their 30s.
Researchers say that tourist boats might stress out the mammals and say that the suspension of ferry boats might ease some of the tensions on the population.
But, conservationists say, it will take much more than handling ferry traffic to save the species.
Earlier this month, there was even a rare dolphin sighting in New York City, where residents spotted a trio of dolphins swimming along the East River, the New York Post reported.
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