Study Buddy (Explorer): Chinese white dolphin deaths fall in Hong Kong amid coronavirus pandemic, report says

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  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
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The Chinese white dolphin is listed as a vulnerable species. Photo: Handout

Content provided by the British Council

Read the following text and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] Hong Kong researchers have rare, good news about Chinese white dolphins and their close relative, the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, both listed as vulnerable species.

[2] In 2021, the number of dolphins, porpoises and whales found dead and washed up on shorelines in Hong Kong fell to 32 from 52 the previous year and 55 in 2019, according to the annual Aquatic Animal Virtopsy Lab report released by researchers at City University of Hong Kong (CityU). Of the 2021 incidents, two involved Chinese white dolphins, down from 11 in 2020; most involved Indo-Pacific finless porpoises – 24, compared to 35 in 2020. The dolphin population in Hong Kong waters also rose slightly.

[3] Ferry sailings between Hong Kong and Macau have been paused because of Covid-19 travel restrictions. This probably led to the drop in dolphin and porpoise deaths, said Dr Brian Kot Chin-wing, principal investigator at the CityU lab. The Chinese white dolphin population in Hong Kong waters fell by over 80 per cent in the previous 15 years, a 2020 emergency action report by 15 green groups and regional universities said.

[4] NGO Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) said the number of Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong waters dropped from 188 in 2003 to a low of 32 in 2019. “Although the number has come back a bit to 37 in 2021, it’s still at a very low level,” said the society’s chairman, Taison Chang Ka-tai. The future of the Chinese white dolphin and finless porpoise hangs in the balance. They face noise pollution from ship traffic, the risk of being caught in fishing nets and the threat of losing habitat to land reclamation.

[5] Green groups are concerned about a 16-hectare artificial island to be created by reclamation around Shek Kwu Chau off the south coast of Lantau Island. Shek Kwu Chau is in a dolphin and finless porpoise habitat. It is only one of several projects threatening dolphin and porpoise numbers in the Pearl River Delta since the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Another project threatening their habitat is the third runway reclamation for the Hong Kong International Airport.

[6] “Most of this construction has caused permanent habitat loss, which greatly reduces the carrying capacity of marine habitats,” said Chang, referring to the maximum number of dolphins and porpoises these waters can support. “To reverse this trend, we need a determined policy to set up a large and ecologically connected marine reserve immediately ... We also need to put a halt to upcoming reclamation projects happening in their habitats, or otherwise we might eventually lose these animals in our waters.”

[7] Noise pollution is another threat. “Dolphins living off south Lantau are facing pervasive noise threats from vessels and coastal operations, which hinders their foraging, navigation, and mating behaviour,” said green group WWF-Hong Kong.
Source: South China Morning Post, March 15


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. List two vulnerable species mentioned in paragraph 1. (2 marks)

2. Read paragraph 2, and decide if the following statements are True, False or Not Given. (4 marks)
(i) Fewer dead whales, dolphins and porpoises were found along Hong Kong’s shores in 2021, as compared to 2020.
(ii) The researchers at CityU first started tracking the Chinese white dolphin population in 2019.
(iii) The population of dolphins in Hong Kong waters was higher in 2020 compared to 2021.
(iv) Two female dolphins were found dead on Hong Kong’s shorelines in 2021.

3. What reason did Kot give in paragraph 3 for the decrease in dolphin and porpoise deaths?
A. ban on dolphin and porpoise hunting
B. rise in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong
C. halt in ferry sailings between Hong Kong and Macau
D. all of the above

4. Find a phrase in paragraph 4 that refers to “being in an uncertain or critical state”.

5. Fill in the table using information from paragraphs 1 to 4. (7 marks)

6. What do the projects mentioned in paragraph 5 have in common?

7. What does the “trend” in paragraph 6 refer to?
A. decrease in the carrying capacity of marine habitats in Hong Kong
B. drop in new projects that threaten marine habitats
C. rise in the number of dolphins and porpoises in Hong Kong waters
D. increase in habitats that support marine mammals

8. Which source of noise can harm dolphins according to paragraph 7?
A. honking from cars and trucks
B. sailing of ships and ferries
C. noise produced by planes
D. people talking loudly

9. How does noise pollution affect dolphins according to paragraph 7?

Several construction projects in Hong Kong threaten the habitats of Chinese white dolphins. Photo: Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society


1. Chinese white dolphins and Indo-Pacific finless porpoises
2. (i) T; (ii) NG; (iii) F; (iv) NG
3. C
4. (hangs) in the balance
5. Total number of dolphins, whales and porpoises found dead on Hong Kong’s shores: 32 (2021); 52 (2020); 55 (2019)
Total number of Chinese white dolphins found dead on Hong Kong’s shores: 2 (2021); 11 (2020); - (2019)
Total number of Chinese white dolphins: 37 (2021); - (2020); 32 (2019)
6. They threaten dolphin and porpoise numbers in the Pearl River Delta.
7. A
8. B
9. It disrupts their foraging, navigation and mating behaviour.

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