By Fanny W. Y. Fung
A wounded Chinese white dolphin found in Hong Kong waters last month was rescued yesterday afternoon after 18 days of search efforts and sent to Ocean Park for treatment.
The animal, named Hope by its rescuers, was found off Shek Pik, on southern Lantau Island, by a team of experts from the park and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department who had been searching for the dolphin since January 20.
The team captured it using a specially adapted hoop net and a mild sedative was used to slow the dolphin down, according to a statement from Ocean Park.
A spokeswoman added that Hope had arrived at 5pm and a preliminary health assessment found multiple serious wounds with three exposed vertebrae in front of its tail.
Over the next few days, she said, Hope will have 24-hour care and undergo a thorough examination - including X-rays, ultrasound, bacterial swabs and blood tests - and receive medical treatment at the hands of experts from the park, the conservation department and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The dolphin is a male, 2.3 metres long and weighs 135kg, according to the department.
The mammal was first spotted by a group of University of Hong Kong students off the Lantau village of Tai O on January 16. They saw severe cuts on its fin and back, believed to be caused by the propeller of a boat's outboard motor.
Some marine conservation specialists argued that it should be left to recover in the wild. Images of the wounded animal were circulated on the internet, causing widespread concern.
Chinese white dolphins are a protected species in the city, with only 60 of them living in Hong Kong waters.
Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, who inspected the dolphin after its rescue, said there was no immediate threat to its survival, but judging from its condition it faced a long road to recovery.
Yesterday's success was the sixth attempt to capture the animal. The society provided a boat for the search team to use in the operation, and sent its own team to observe the process.
Asked whether the rescue procedure had caused any further injury to the dolphin, Hung said his society had shot a video of the rescue process for the park to release and it was better to leave that judgment to the public.