|Copyright: Ken Fung, Hong Kong Dolphinwatch|
But maybe not for long. Back in 2000, the number in Hong Kong was estimated at 213. Chinese white dolphins belong to the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinesis) species. Researcher T. Jefferson optimistically wrote in Wildlife Monographs, "Overall, the population of humpbacked dolphins that occurs in Hong Kong waters appears viable and should be able to survive with appropriate conservation efforts."
Perhaps the following tale helps illustrate. Not long ago, the school where I work as a counselor in Hong Kong had a talent show. During the month prior to the event, students aspiring to perform as heavy metal rockers amped up and played in the music practice rooms directly beneath my office. The walls are thin in my school, so for weeks, items danced around on my desk and the windows of my office rattled. I could not hear my phone when it rang.
In order to get away from the sound, sometimes I went someplace quieter--like to the train station across the street. Unfortunately, escaping to the station is not an option for dolphins.
Like my office, not only are the territorial waters of Hong Kong loud, they are highly contaminated with heavy metal. The difference being that the metal is mercury. Unlike my office, there is also sewage waste discharge. Hong Kong in recent years is said to have dumped 120 million gallons of semi-processed sewage a day into its harbors.
Having such total disregard for dolphins is odd considering that human beings claim to like them. Nor is this affection a recent fad. Over the centuries, many friendly and helpful deeds have been ascribed to the creatures.
Some of the earliest stories about dolphins appear in Greek mythology. Apollo, for example, was said to have assumed the form of a dolphin when he founded the oracle at Delphi. Along with the Romans, the Greeks considered dolphins to be messengers of the gods. The ancients thought it was a terrible crime to harm a dolphin--one that brought dreadful luck to the human who had committed it.
One day in 1904, a drunk passenger on the SS Penguin shot at Jack as the dolphin was guiding it. Fortunately, Jack was unharmed and fled. Weeks later, he appeared and resumed guiding ships. But Jack refused to guide the Penguin ever again and in 1909, it wrecked in the rocky strait.