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Due to the recent drop in tourist numbers, the number of people going on pink dolphin sightseeing tours organised by The Hong Kong Dolphinwatch has plumetted, and the ecological tour operator is now only days away from going out of business. The group is the city’s only organisation running excursions following governmental guidelines, and all of their profits go towards dolphin conservation charities to save Hong Kong’s (now tiny) population of pink dolphins. They need your help now.
Officially known as “Chinese White Dolphins”, pink dolphins are an endangered species living in seas surrounding Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Their small population is currently under threat – the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society reported in 2014 that only 61 pink dolphins were left in the city’s waters, representing a 40% decline in just one decade.
Recent figures are likely to be even lower, due to a whole host of reasons. Firstly, development projects like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has filled Hong Kong’s oceans with acoustic chaos, which makes it difficult for the dolphins to navigate and communicate sonically. In addition, plans for the third runway for the city’s airport will involve reclaiming 650 hectares of land, which will drastically cut into the natural habitat of pink dolphins. These beloved animals are also made vulnerable to pollution from Hong Kong’s ineffective waste management and plastic pollution crisis. This is a part of a broader global trend of mass extinction caused by anthropogenic activities. According to a worldwide assessment conducted by the IPBES this year, roughly 1 million species of plants and animals are currently threatened with extinction due to climate change effects.
In addition to these threats, the recent plummeting of tourism has taken a toll on the numbers going on pink dolphin tours. Since 1995, the Hong Kong Dolphinwatch has been operating ecological excursions to see these dolphins, with a mission to raise awareness and funding for the conservation of dolphins in the region. Founded by Bill Leverett, the eco-tourism operator is the only group following the AFCD’s code of conduct, which warns against crowding around dolphins or suddenly changing course at a high speed. Profits from their tours go to a range of charities, such as the World Wildlife Fund HK to the Friends of the Earth HK. They also support marine researchers who are able to go on tours with minimal charge and offer free tickets for schools and charity groups.
Without the efforts of the eco-tourism operator, which valiantly educates the public about the dolphin species and donates funds to local dolphin conservation organisations, the outlook for our much-loved pink dolphins is incredibly bleak. We need to start supporting local groups such as these if we are to save our dolphins in the middle of our current biodiversity and extinction crisis.
Lead image courtesy of TimeOut Hong Kong.