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.
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)