Second dead dolphin seen

THE reported sighting of the second dolphin corpse to be washed up near Tuen Mun in a month has renewed conservationists' fears that a possibly rare species may be heading for extinction.

''This is the fifth dead dolphin this year,'' said marine conservation officer for the World Wide Fund for Nature, Jo Ruxton.

''Usually we would not expect to find more than one or two a year, so this number of deaths is very worrying.'' The latest corpse was reported to have been seen on Monday, but a search by police yesterday suggested it had been swept away, and would return with the tide.

Ms Ruxton said one of the dead dolphins had been a juvenile, and the bruising on its body suggested it had been hit by a boat.

''But it is hard to know why the other ones died without doing extensive laboratory testing, which costs thousands of dollars.'' Ms Ruxton said the dolphins had probably been driven by hunger to look for food supplies that had not been depleted by dredging or over-fishing, and had swum into polluted or congested waters.

The dolphins, which are pink, grey or white, are thought to be a unique species or sub-species, only to be found in the Pearl River delta area.

''We can't know for sure until we have a genetic mapping: but what other dolphins in the world are pink?'' Ms Ruxton said.

She estimated there were between 200 and 250 pink dolphins in the area.

After months of delays, caused by the need to obtain permits to export animal parts from Hongkong to South Africa, Ms Ruxton hopes that the genetic fingerprinting tests will be able to start this month in a specialist laboratory in South Africa to determine if this is a unique species.