Bridge project blamed for dolphin deaths

A conservation expert has sounded the alarm over last week's deaths of four dolphins and a porpoise in Hong Kong.

Ceris Wong

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A conservation expert has sounded the alarm over last week's deaths of four dolphins and a porpoise in Hong Kong.

Last Thursday, the bodies of three Chinese white dolphins were found in Lantau waters, the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation said.

Three days later on Sunday, a 1.55-meter female finless porpoise was found dead near Discovery Bay.

All four were sent to the foundation's science laboratory for autopsy.

The foundation confirmed yesterday that the finless porpoise was at level 4 decomposition while the three dolphins were badly decomposed.

So far this year, there have been 16 beached animals found. The drastic drop in the number of dolphins is alarming, said Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Samuel Hung Ka-yiu.

Only 61 dolphins were found in Hong Kong waters in 2014 and the number has been dropping due to persistent water pollution, busy water traffic, habitat destruction and food shortage, he said.

"The situation has gotten worse ever since the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge started its construction," said Hung, who blamed the huge land reclamation and disturbing noise from the project.

The reproductive success of the dolphins is constantly low and its infant mortality rate has been high, leading to little continuity of the species.

"The condition is very worrying and we are at a critical moment. The imminent threat for dolphins will be the third runway project which we have always opposed to. Our dolphins cannot afford a further loss of habitat due to sea reclamation. The project will be destructive," Hung added.

He suggested the government halt the runway project immediately as the timing is just unsuitable.

Ocean Park is banking on cartoon phenomenon SpongeBob SquarePants to draw visitors back to the theme park this summer amid flagging attendance figures.

The Nickelodeon character was yesterday announced as the star of its annual Summer Splash beginning on Friday, with celebrities Matt Yeung and Lisa Ch'ng introducing the SpongeBob Water Party.

The attraction will be held until August 28 and features new ride AMaze-ing Lasers. Brought over from the United States, players move through laser grids in a dark chamber.

Another new feature, Mega Gush, will let guests cool off in the summer heat as they stand below a huge water bucket as water gushes over them.

Guests can create giant human-sized bubbles among SpongeBob-themed decorations in the Jumbo Bubble Playground and splash at Rainbow Fountain, with its waterspouts in sync with colorful lights and rhythms.

The chief executive of the Aberdeen theme park, Tom Mehrmann, said: "As one of our signature seasonal events, Summer Splash has become a favorite summer activity for students and a popular outing for the entire family.

"Riding on our successful experience of introducing popular characters into our festive events in recent years, we have invited SpongeBob to join our Summer Splash this year to offer guests of all ages a wonderful summer party experience."

A SpongeBob pop-up store will also sell a wide range of limited-edition merchandise.

Snacks such as iced pineapples and mini watermelons will also be available at food kiosks.

At the Lakeside BBQ Carnival, guests will also be able to enjoy delicious skewers and barbecued foods.

Water sports enthusiasts could join the summer-only edition of snorkeling adventure inside the Grand Aquarium.

Participants aged 10 or above will be led by a professional diver through colorful coral and marine life.

From July 15, Ocean Park will be giving away 800 prizes every week to guests.

During the Summer Splash period, guests can enjoy 10 percent off their admission ticket with the Ocean Park App's new user offer.

Attendance at Ocean Park dropped to 6.7 million last year, down from 7.8 million in 2014.