Poll on beluga whale plan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am


Ocean Park wants to know what you think about its plan to capture a group of beluga whales in the wild and bring them to Hong Kong for display.

The park has commissioned an independent public opinion survey, officials said yesterday. They want to weigh the pros and cons of a decision to import some of the animals.

The poll asks Hong Kong residents how they would feel if Ocean Park brought four or five of the animals, known also as white whales, in from Russia's Far East.

According to the park's proposals, the animals would be on display in its new Polar Adventure exhibit alongside South Pole penguins recently acquired from a Japanese zoo.

Conservationists have dismissed the poll as an attempt to justify a decision after it has been made.

'Isn't it too late to ask the public's view?' Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said. 'They have already built a facility and now can't wait to fill it.'

An Ocean Park spokesman said the agency was still processing the survey. The park will announce its findings soon and make a final decision afterwards. Redesigned areas of the park will open next year.

A park representative insisted the park was prepared to walk away from the idea. 'It would be difficult to go ahead with the plan without public support,' the source said.

The planned introduction of the belugas is probably the most controversial of the park's recent moves. Ocean Park says it could help boost conservation efforts by letting the public see the animals close up.

Conservationists say the animals are 'near threatened', which means they have sufficient numbers to survive on their own. Certain subpopulations are endangered.

Park officials say risks to the animals during capture and transport would be low. They say they are aware of the potential for public criticism if problems arise.