British Council English Language Centre

Chinese White Dolphin
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The Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis)

Chinese White Dolphins are a Cetacean species. In Southeast Asia, they are born with a black colour, they quickly change to grey and gradually become white or pink. Chinese White Dolphins are found near coastlines, and usually near the mouth of major rivers .The Pearl River near Hong Kong provides the estuarine water which is comfortable for them. This population is usually found to the north of Lantau  Island and occasionally to the southwest, near the Soko Islands, and the southeast, near Peng Chau. Population estimates range from fewer than 100 to around 150. Current studies are limited to Hong Kong Territorial waters, because Chinese Authorities do not allow their water to be surveyed, so these estimates do not consider the total population in the Pearl River Delta.

Chinese White Dolphin can talk naturally to their friends. They can bend the upper part of their body forward, slap, do head bobbing, swim at a high speed and breach. As they grow up, they may develop a high level of movement such as somersaulting. Those that we can see in a dolphin show are advanced ones. They can do ball jumping, object  pushing and finding an object then bringing it back.

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Habitat and Distribution:
They require shallow, sheltered, estuarine waters. Chinese White Dolphins are usually distributed in coastal areas of the Atlantic Indian and South Pacific Oceans and the tropical sea of SE Asia. Places such as the Pearl River Delta are the most suitable for them. They are usually seen around the rocky, reef seabed island areas,  mentioned above, where their prey occurs. 

The Chinese White Dolphins were sighted 120 times in 1996 which is a low number. All calves born in 1996 have died. The reason for this is because the project of the Chek Lap Kok New Airport in Lantau Island. It is also because the building of the Tung Chung New Town, North Lantau Expressway and the Tsing Ma Suspension Bridge. Water in these construction areas are murky due to the fact that is too close to the Pearl River delta. The construction causes extra reclamation silt and the water turns completely brown. They also die because of the explosions and heavy boat traffic. These two factors produce high noise level and polluted air. Humans have treated the Chinese White Dolphin cruelly causing problems such as: loss of habitat. People have reclaimed land in Kowloon and dug mud from the seabed. It has polluted the water and destroyed the environment. Also, over-fishing has caused a reduction in food  supplies. Finally, the construction of the new airport and the increase in traffic between China and Hong Kong causes noise pollution which affects dolphin's ability to communicate and find the direction.
Toxic material, chemical waste, bacteria and viruses have killed a lot of marine life. Also, some sewage, which has not yet been treated sometimes flows into the sea. Oil also sometimes flows into the sea and causes damage to their lung tissues. People hunt dolphins for their blubber, baleen and the substances used for producing perfumes  and perhaps just for fun. Although fishermen do not wish to kill the dolphins, many of them are trapped in fishing nets and are choked to death or drowned accidentally. Predators of the sea such as sharks and large sea animals often kill and eat dolphins.

Protection Efforts
We should save the dolphins by
1) Giving places free from marine traffic for them to rest, nurse the young and find food. Inside areas should have a limit of speed, sounds and make sure ships don't come into the marine parks.
2) Make sure there are enough food in the marine park, fishing and dredging should not be allowed. Fishing is only allowed at the places where it doesn't disturb the dolphins. Young fish and prawns should be protected for the basic food of the  dolphins.
3) Treat the sewage properly, don't use DDT, PCB and stop pumping contaminated sludge in the sea to keep the ocean clean.
4) Use double hull tankers to make sure no oil is spilled out
5) Fishing practices need to be revised to make sure there is no trawling in coastal waters.
6) Education should be given to the people, teaching them to reduce waste production, recycle useless products, don't throw plastic products in wrong places.

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Information researched from the following sources:

Hong Kong Dolphin Watch (

WWF Hong Kong Factsheets - The Chinese White Dolphin - Sousa chinensis. 1994, 1997 WWF HK.

Hong Kong Institute of Education:


Class F3-147

Dutch translation follows asap

Nederlandse vertaling volgt zo spoedig mogelijk.

Written by (geschreven door):
Helen Cheng, Duncan Cheung, Gary Law, Vinci Lee, Kenneth Leung, Jerome So, Candy Tong, Jason Wan, Anita Nga


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Copyright August 1997-1999 - Joan Goble and René de Vries