An inspiring sight for guilty eyes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am

It is almost 10am when the cry 'Dolphin!' goes up. The water is dark brown and choppy, yet the sleek arch and bubblegum pink are unmistakable - a Chinese white dolphin.

Despite the seven dolphin experts on the boat having collectively made thousands of sightings, the sleek figures just off the airport elicit sighs of delight. The team remains transfixed as jet after jet roars overhead, spewing fumes and noise while the graceful creatures frolic.

Dolphins, revered as a good omen for humankind since the dawn of time, somehow exist in one of the world's busiest and polluted waterways.

'It's amazing seeing dolphins in this city,' Samuel Hung Ka-yiu says. 'These dolphins are trying to coexist with us. It's quite amazing. They are forgiving us for what we are doing to them.'

Mr Hung, 31, shows pictures of the creatures he has devoted his life to studying. His names for individuals may be affectionate, but they evoke their sinister surroundings. There is his old friend 'Square Fin', spotted 110 times - the top of the dorsal probably sliced off by a propeller. Another is called 'Ringo', so named for the deep scar left around the animal's trunk after it become entangled in waste.

An hour later the 'Dolphin!' call goes up again. Looking out across the water, the scene is chaotic, with two ferries screaming past - one to the mainland, the other to Hong Kong - and several small ships carrying containers chugging along. A 'red tide', or algal bloom, lines a sea surface scattered with plastic bags and other debris.

I think surely dolphins cannot exist here? But there they are. Not just one, but several - one pink, another almost completely blue, then a third is spotted, all cruising the area seemingly oblivious to the noise, chaos and pollution.

'They've lived here for thousands of years and won't leave until they die,' says Mr Hung, sensing my amazement - and sorrow. 'It's really up to us whether we want to push them to that. We have a responsibility to care for them.'