Hong Kong dolphin numbers increase

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Animals continue to thrive during the pandemic, with dolphins now returning in large numbers to Hong Kong after the ferry service was shut down. High-speed ferries between Hong Kong and Macau were stopped back in March, and since then, the number of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins has increased by 30 percent. The lack of water traffic has made the marine environment more suitable and accommodating for dolphins, which are now taking advantage of the situation.

The endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is also known as the Chinese white dolphin and, colloquially, the pink dolphin due to its rare pink-ish hue.

Dr. Lindsay Porter, a senior research scientist with the University of St. Andrews, told The Guardian, “It was the last week in February, literally the week after the ferries stopped travelling between Hong Kong and Macau. I’ve been studying these dolphins since 1993 and I’ve never seen anything like this dramatic change before, and the only thing that changed is 200 ferries stopped travelling before.”

Porter and her team lived aboard a yacht so they could conduct a study of the dolphin population. The researchers were also able to take advantage of the lack of traffic, dropping microphones from the boat and using drones to monitor the dolphins. They discovered that the dolphins feel more relaxed in the absence of humans.

“From visual observations,” she said, “the dolphins are spending much more time socializing, splashing around on the surface, quite a bit of foreplay, quite a bit of sex … to see them having a good time, that was really great to see.”