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Detour

Believe it or not, garbage isn't the only thing swimming around in Hong Kong waters. The heavily polluted South China Sea is also home to the Sousa chinensis, or Chinese white dolphin, a unique species of the mammal found only in Southeast Asia. The territory's rapid industrialization and far-reaching harbor reclamation have been bad news for the rare creature, whose numbers are estimated at only about 250. Faced with overfishing, heavy boat traffic and rising levels of raw sewage and toxic chemicals, the pink-tinged dolphins are struggling to survive in what little remains of their natural habitat.

Hong Kong Dolphinwatch (tel. 852-2984-1414), a four-year-old company dedicated to saving the mammals, has helped raise local awareness about their plight. The company organizes weekly trips to view the dolphins in their fast-diminishing environment. "We make every effort to educate each tour group about the threats facing the dolphins," says general manager Bill Leverett. Dolphin-watchers, he adds, have come from as far away as Japan and North America. Adults pay $36 for half-day boat tours or $45 for full-day tours on Sundays. Kids under 12 pay half-price, and a free return trip is offered to all in the rare instance that the dolphins fail to appear. Online booking information is at www.zianet.com/dolphins. On a typical tour, the dolphins hear the boat approaching and jump to the surface several times before taking a deep dive, giving eager naturalists plenty of time to catch a glimpse of the playful pink creatures. Guessing where they will appear next makes photo-taking a challenge, but Dolphinwatch has that covered: free postcards are included for each participant.

--Maria Cheng




Daily

July 26, 1999

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Believe it or not, garbage isn't the only thing swimming around in Hong Kong waters

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