Skip to main content

China's white dolphins headed for extinction in Pearl River Delta?

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 0819 GMT (1619 HKT)
China's white dolphins -- famous for the actual pink hue of their skin -- could be wiped out completely. China's white dolphins -- famous for the actual pink hue of their skin -- could be wiped out completely.
HIDE CAPTION
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
Chinese white dolphins at risk
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's white dolphin population has fallen more than 60% from 2003 to 2012
  • Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman says fall is "alarming decline"
  • Plans for world's longest bridge-tunnel link, third airport runway impacting dolphin habitats

Hong Kong (CNN) -- China's unique white dolphins -- famous for the actual pink hue of their skin -- face going from endangered to extinct -- with conservationists doubtful they can be saved.

"We've seen alarming decline in the last decade -- 158 dolphins in 2003, just 61 dolphins in 2012," says Samuel Hung, Chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

"We are at a critical juncture on whether we can help the dolphins," adds Hung. "I have no idea whether they will keep going down and down -- but what I do know is we need to work urgently to come up with solutions to clean up the dolphin's habitat."

Land reclamation for massive engineering projects, resulting water pollution and boat strikes have exacted a heavy toll on the white dolphin population, which is mainly found in the waters of Hong Kong's Pearl River Delta in southern China.

Saving dolphins from danger
New Hong Kong airport runway under fire
Look out! Dolphin traffic jam
Divers rescue entangled dolphin

In 2016, the first automobiles are expected to roll across the 42-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, respectively connecting the Asian financial hub with the Chinese mainland's "special economic zone" and the world's gambling capital. Now under construction, the world's longest cross-sea bridge and tunnel link will go "right through the heart of the dolphin population," says Hung. "There will be lots of piling activities to construct the bridge."

By 2023, Hong Kong aims to complete a third runway for Chep Lap Kok international airport, already one of the world's busiest. In the absence of soil on which to build, 650 hectares of land -- an area more than 5,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- will be reclaimed from the sea. The area is also prime habitat for the Chinese white dolphin.

The Hong Kong government has also proposed four additional land reclamation projects in dolphin-populated areas that aim to increase the amount of land on which to build in order to bring down the high cost of housing, adds Hung.

Yet, despite Hong Kong's plans for numerous engineering projects that will impact the white dolphins' habitats, the founder of the 10-year old Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society says he "actually applauds" the government's conservation efforts.

"I don't doubt their desire to conserve," explains Hung, who adds that the Hong Kong government has provided more than $1 million Hong Kong dollars (US$125,000) each year for environmental research funds, set up a marine protection park for the white dolphins and helped monitor dolphin population numbers.

"But it's the other bureaus who want to push economic projects" including Hong Kong's Airport Authority and the Civil Engineering and Development Department, says Hung.

"The economic departments are more influential so our voice for conservation work is drowned out by the voice for construction."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1809 GMT (0209 HKT)
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT