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Construction Threatens Hong Kong’s Iconic Pink Dolphins

posted: 12/01/15
by: Danny Clemens
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Construction projects in Hong King will imperil the city's population of beloved pink dolphins unless urgent conservation actions are taken, experts warn.

Since being voted the official mascot of Hong Kong in 1997, the city's population of iconic Chinese white dolphins (which actually appear more pink that white) has lost more than 2,000 hectares of habitat, with much of that damage done at the hands of mankind.

Scientifically known as Sousa chinensis, the dolphin is found in waters throughout southeastern Asia and northern Australia. Despite the species' wide range, individual populations have become increasingly fragmented in recent years -- the Hong Kong population has plummeted from 158 in 2003 to a mere 63 in 2013, according to calculations done by the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Chinese white dolphin in China
Daniel Sorabji/AFP/Getty Images

Their habitat shrinking steadily and growing increasingly polluted, many dolphins have left the Hong Kong area or been killed (albeit inadvertently) by boat traffic and industrial development.

Now, an expansion to Hong Kong International Airport and a 31-mile bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau could drive away the few remaining dolphins. The airport project alone will impact 650 additional hectares of dolphin habitat, with another 981 hectares experiencing heavy disruption throughout construction activities.

Related: Rare Pink Dolphin Might Be Pregnant

The airport runway construction falls in a key area between three major dolphin habitats, creating a "physical barrier in the water," the WWF warns. In addition to the direct loss of dolphin habitat, the development will also bring increased noise and water pollution to the already heavily-degraded waterway.

In the face of growing threats, wildlife advocacy groups have called for government officials to establish a protected area for marine life and establish a conservation plan with a well-rounded strategy to protect dolphins.

"In some ways it seems like we are pushing them closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and if we're making that final push, they will be gone forever. I think now is the time to get our act together," Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, told the AFP.

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