Hong Kong’s pink dolphins are disappearing
The waters surrounding Hong Kong are some of the busiest in the world. The island serves as a hub for merchant ships, fishing vessels, and cruise ships. The bays and harbors are also home to a variety of marine life, including some of Hong Kong’s most famous residents, the Chinese white dolphins. Born a muted gray, these playful creatures mature into a brilliant pink. The animals are famous in the city and have served as an emblem of Hong Kong for decades. Now, however, they are in serious danger.
Over the past twenty years, the population of pink dolphins has dropped precipitously, and experts warn that unless something is done, the animals may disappear from the area. Conservationists measuring the number of pink dolphins reported a decline from 158 dolphins in 2003 to a mere 61 in 2014, and numbers in 2016 are expected to be even lower.
There are a variety of reasons that the population of pink dolphins might be declining. Overfishing that threatens the food source of the dolphins, noise pollution from ships, and industrial runoff, which has resulted in significant levels of toxins being recorded in the bodies of pink dolphins and their calves. The greatest threat may be coastal development which disturbs the natural habitat of the dolphins that come to the coast to feed.
The dolphins are also threatened by a naturally low birth rate. The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin produces only one calf every four to six years, lowering their chances of producing enough offspring to offset the dolphins killed in boat strikes.
Local conservationists have pushed the government of Hong Kong to set aside more habitat for the preservation of the dolphins, but thus far little has been accomplished on that front. City officials have funded studies on the population numbers and not much else. Unless serious efforts are made to preserve the dolphin, future generations of Hong Kongers may never see these beautiful pink dolphins swimming in their harbors.