A mother and calf pair of highly endangered Chinese white dolphins were recently found dead, washed up on the shores of Hong Kong’s Lamma Island.
The carcasses of the animals, also called “pink dolphins”, were reportedly discovered by a fisherman surnamed Pak last week at Kat Tsai Wan, off the west coast of the island.
A necropsy later conducted by the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) revealed that the dolphin was actually an adult pregnant female carrying a full-term, unborn 1.02-meter long male baby. The calf was also dead like its mother, both of them severely decomposed.
In a statement, the foundation reported its findings that there was no evidence of physical trauma or net entanglement that might have led to the deaths.
Marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd regional director Gary Stokes, who alerted OPCFHK, further explained via a series of video statements that the calf probably died inside the womb, infecting its mother.
He pointed out that the mother dolphin was apparently very healthy before its death as indicated by the state of its flesh and organs.
The responding OPCHK team took some of the samples back to its lab to test them for micro-plastics.
“[It’s a] very sad day because we’ve actually lost an adult female and obviously they are the key animals in the species,” Stokes said. “Very sad day, we’ve lost another of our Chinese white dolphins, and we cannot be affording to lose anymore.”
A symbol of the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong, the pink dolphin was selected to be the mascot for the event. The 20th anniversary of the historic transfer of sovereignty took place on Saturday, a day before the dead pink dolphins were found.
From over two hundred in 1997, the population of the species has dropped to just 40-something now. Experts say the primary cause of the recent decline in the number of pink dolphins has been the pollution brought about multiple land reclamation and construction projects near their habitat which has become smaller in the past two decades.