Saturday, 15 August 2015
During these past two months working for the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society I nearly got a heat stroke, been sunburned more times then I can count, and gained weeks worth of valuable research experience. Being able to watch finless porpoises and Chinese white dolphins in their natural habitat made every difficult day worth it. The creativity and curiosity of the dolphins consistently amazed me. Their socializing behavior was the most interesting behavior to watch. During the times when a group of dolphins would come close to our boat we could see them breaching on top of one another, play fighting and swimming close together. These moments were truly heartwarming because even though this dolphin population is facing so many threats they still socialize together in the presence of our research group.
I did not expect this internship to take such a large emotional toll on me. The reality of the situation is that the cetacean populations are struggling in Hong Kong waters. The goal of our organization is to collect accurate information about marine mammal distribution in Hong Kong. Additionally, we want to educate the general public and the government about the state of the dolphin and porpoise populations. Due to the HKDCS ‘s thorough collection of data over the past couple decades it can be seen that the dolphin population decline is a direct response to human caused threats. The greatest of these threats being habitat destruction. This includes land reclamation for the airport and increased boat traffic around Lantau due to the construction of the Hong Kong Zhu Hai Macau Bridge. Hong Kong naturally has an amazing amount of biodiversity. Therefore, it saddens me to see these species being overlooked by the Hong Kong government in favor of new developments.
During my third week of the internship two dolphins passed away. One of these cases was a young calf. This is a fairly common occurrence. The staff members were telling me that the mother kept pushing the small calf body underwater as if to protect it from our research boat. Then Leon showed me a video of this behavior. These dolphin calves commonly die from pollution and toxins that bioaccumulate in the mother’s milk. This happens due to the high levels of industrial pollution in the pearl river delta. It really hit me hard. In addition to this news, a dead adult dolphin had also been found that week. It made me feel very discouraged to hear about this poor baby dying as well. I know my colleagues are used to dealing with these dolphin deaths, especially the deaths of young calves. I admire them so much for continuing to do this work even though the survival of this dolphin population seems very uncertain.