Whale death raises question of shark practice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 November, 1999, 12:00am

Something sinister is happening in Hong Kong. And so far, Lai See seems to be the only one to have noticed it.

A dark conspiracy has been hatched, an innocent murdered, and an unsuspecting public duped.

But before we launch into our theories, let's just review the facts: Commissioner for Tourism Mike Rowse leads the Government into a Disney deal.

Suddenly, he finds himself under immense pressure.

How to justify the figure of $148 billion in economic benefits he claims will flow into Hong Kong via Disney? How can Mickey R. guarantee that Mickey M. will become an all-powerful money magnet? He needs to be sure. . .

Then, suddenly, the star attraction of the only competing theme park in Hong Kong mysteriously dies of some obscure whale malady.

Coincidence? We think not.

Here's what Lai See thinks REALLY happened: It was 4 am and blackness lay upon Ocean Park. There was no moon, and the stars slumbered behind a fluffy blanket of smog.

Suspended in watery dark, Barney dreamed of his forbidden love for Delila the Dolphin.

The trusting whale never sensed that death was near.

The hitman emerged from the sea in a scuba suit, near the rocks at the park's edge. Clambering up the cliff, he scaled the fence designed to protect Ocean Park's finny tenants.

Gliding past the gift shop and the frozen roller coaster cars, the killer turned towards Barney's pool.

Yes, there were alarms here. But the hi-tech wizards on his bosses' payroll had found ways to disable them.

A flick of a remote control switch, and the invisible beams criss-crossing the whale pool blinked out of existence.

A container of industrial strength whale-repellent was slipped from a dive bootie. The hitman flicked the stopper free, staring for a moment at the murky liquid.

Make it look like an accident, his employers had told him. Those aquarium people have made a career out of killing whales. Why should this look any different? No one will suspect a thing. . .

Anyway, we reckon that's pretty much how it went.

Of course, it's always possible Lai See needs to get more sleep and stop reading murder mystery novels.

But you've got to admit, the whole thing smells a bit fishy.

Naturally, the Disney tourism promoters are denying the whole thing.

We called up Mike Rowse and demanded to know if he was at the centre of an elaborate conspiracy to keep Disney-snubbing tourists from having a whale of a time.

He categorically denied any involvement in Barney's death and offered his heartfelt condolences to the marine mammal community.

His sentiments were heartfelt but at least he kept his sense of humour.

'At the death of a whale, all I can do is blubber,' Mr Rowse said.


We suppose it is just possible that Barney is simply the latest victim of the Great Ocean Park Whale Plague. He was, after all, the hundredth cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) to die under their loving care.

But you can't blame us for harbouring suspicions. We all know how low Hong Kong's tourism promoters can stoop.

Just look at their ambassador. On Thursday, film star and tourism poster child Jackie Chan dismissed as a 'playful act' the fact that he'd impregnated his mistress while cheating on his faithful wife of many years.

We're not sure if that beauty queen was ever a tourist, but it certainly sounds like Jackie took the old 'be a generous host' thing that one step too far.

Anyway, even if those Disney pushers didn't kill Barney, they stand a fair chance of wiping out his cousins.

Remember all those pink dolphins that happily smiled up at tourists from the surfaces of official handover souvenirs? Those cartoons were thriving right about the time their real-life counterparts were being driven out of their natural habitat at Chek Lap Kok . . . to the waters near Penny's Bay.

Of course, the Disney people swear on a stack of comics they'll do everything they can to ensure that no harm comes to the world's 100 remaining pink dolphins.

We're not entirely clear how they're going to go about it though.

Perhaps they'll turn the creatures over to the professional and loving care of Ocean Park.

We understand they have loads of spacious, recently vacated whale tanks.