Sightings of the Hong Kong pink dolphin (sousa chinensis) have increased by almost a third since ship and ferry traffic in the city was suspended in March as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic.
This species, native to the estuary of the Pearl River -the third longest river that flows entirely through China- normally avoid the waters between Hong Kong and Macau due to the large volume of ships of high speed that transit the zone.
But the cancellation of ferry traffic, temporarily halted due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, has caused some dolphins have returned to their former feeding grounds.
Laurence McCook, head of ocean conservation for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), told EFE that his team has participated in a tour to observe the new course of these cetaceans as they pass through the Hong Kong island of Lantau. They concluded that “animals have adapted to these calmer environments faster than expected”, and they are coming back little by little.
“These dolphins are globally important as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and are an important part of the shared heritage of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, but marine developments in the waters of both regions they had put the species in grave danger“McCook said.
The scientist emphasizes that in the last 15 years the presence of these animals has dropped by up to 80% in this area due to human interference. According to WWF Hong Kong, the population of this species is estimated at around 2,500 specimens and it currently faces threats such as the degradation of its habitat, underwater noise pollution or the presence of toxins and other pollutants.
Therefore, the organization urges local authorities to take measures to establish a “management zone for the conservation of dolphins” in the western and southern waters of Lantau Island, as well as to “rigorously manage the boat traffic and ecotourism activities of the dolphins in those waters.”
The experts too propose an emergency plan to give dolphins an opportunity to regain their habitat, including providing protection to the most critical areas so that cetaceans can feed, mate and socialize.