From: Reuters
Published March 27, 2008 06:17 AM

Airport project seen threatening rare dolphins

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A population of rare Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong's coastal waters may be threatened by several upcoming construction projects including a proposed new airport runway, a dolphin conservation group has warned.

Around 200 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins -- commonly called Chinese white dolphins -- survive in Hong Kong's western waters near the Chek Lap Kok international airport on Lantau island.

While the resident population of these pink-hued cetaceans has remained steady over the past decade, the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society says pressure to expand capacity at Hong Kong's bustling aviation hub posed a serious threat.

"The proposed third runway is quite close to some important habitats so that will further bring some disturbance to the dolphin population," said Samuel Hung, the group's chairman.

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Besides extensive reclamation for the runway, Hong Kong plans other major engineering projects in prime dolphin habitat, including a monumental 30-kilometre (19-mile) bridge link to neighboring Macau and a new town project on Lantau.

"There is already a lot of development pressure in that area and it poses a great threat to the dolphins so I think if there's an additional project, that will be quite a disaster for the dolphins," said Hung, who has researched the creatures for years.

The Hong Kong dolphins which form part of a 1,300-strong estuarine population at the mouth of the Pearl River, are also at risk from heavy marine traffic, overfishing and pollution.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

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