Poll highlights public concern for endangered white dolphins

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am

The Chinese white dolphin has been named the favourite animal on a list of endangered species in a poll organised by WWF Hong Kong.

It also topped the poll of rare animals causing most concern as to its survival. The dolphin secured more than 50 per cent of more than 6,800 ballots cast online by Hongkongers.

It beat the green turtle, horseshoe crab, purple sea urchin, mudskipper, brain coral, Chinese bahaba, Chinese grouper, Japanese eelgrass and yellow croaker. The species were dubbed Ocean's 10 by the green group.

The poll was conducted in an attempt to raise public awareness about the plight of marine life, which the WWF claimed was struggling to survive in a polluted environment and amid overfishing and poaching.

It also released a status report of the 10 species, which said many were either declining in number, rarely found in Hong Kong or vulnerable.

They called for a conservation plan for each of them.

Green turtles face the biggest risk of extinction as they have not been seen in the past four years nesting and laying eggs in Sham Wan, a marine reserve in Lamma.

The turtles are able to return from thousands miles away to lay their eggs. The last egg-laying by green turtles in Hong Kong was last year, when a green turtle left over 60 eggs on the beach at Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung.

Andy Cornish, conservation director of WWF, said: 'These ancient mariners are in desperate straits in Hong Kong. There's a good chance we're watching them going extinct right in front of our eyes, which would be such a sad moment for Hong Kong.

'It may not be too late but we've got to see urgent and major conservation efforts in the next few years.'

The group said the Chinese white dolphin was facing increasing development threats, increased vessel traffic and water pollution including toxins accumulated in its prey.

It proposed that waters off western Lantau be designated a marine park to protect the species.

Battle for survival

There are about 1,500 white dolphins in the Pearl River Estuary

The number in Hong Kong waters is estimated at: 1,300