From multiple successful turtle hatchings around the world to decreasing rates of rhino poaching in South Africa, coronavirus lockdowns have been a blessing to many species of wildlife. More recently, scientists have discovered that diminished human activity has also benefited the elusive pink dolphin, whose return to the seas around Hong Kong has come to the delight of conservationists.
Since boat and ferry traffic was suspended in the region in March, sightings of the rare pink dolphin – often referred to as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin or the Chinese white dolphin – have risen by 30 percent, following their rapid adaptation to the quiet environment and offering hope for their populations, according to the research.
Overfishing, water pollution, and disturbance from marine transportation have all led to a decline in the population of this vulnerable dolphin species, leaving an estimated population of 2,500 in the Pearl River Estuary, which includes Hong Kong.
Following the lockdown and the subsequent lack of human activity over the waters, marine scientists have dropped microphones from a boat and used drones to monitor the state of the dolphins. The results suggested that the animals were quick to adapt to the quiet environment and that now the population could bounce back.
“What we have noticed since the ferries have stopped in this area is dolphins we hadn’t seen for four, five, six years are back in the Hong Kong habitat, so it seems very quickly that the dolphins have come back into this waterway,” said marine scientist Lindsay Porter, who has researched dolphins for three decades from Hong Kong.
“Normally this entire area would be full of fast ferries taking people from Hong Kong to Macau and back again. Since the COVID pandemic started in Macau and a lot of areas have had restricted travel, the fast ferries have stopped. And these waters have become very, very quiet,” added Porter.