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Sightings of rare pink dolphins in Hong Kong waters have jumped since coronavirus lockdown halted ferry travel in the region.  

The Indo-Pacific dolphins - also known as Chinese white dolphins and pink dolphins - are moving back into parts of the Pearl River Delta off Hong Kong. 

Their numbers have jumped by up to 30 per cent since March when ferry traffic was suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown.


Rare pink dolphins return to Hong Kong thanks to coronavirus lockdown halting ferry traffic on parts of the Pearl River Delta

Undated handout photo of two Chinese white dolphins in waters near Hong Kong. Dolphin numbers in the delta have jumped by up to 30 per cent since March, scientists said 

The dolphins once avoided the area due to the boat traffic between Hong Kong and Macau.   

Marine scientist Lindsay Porter, who has studied dolphins near Hong Kong for three decades, said: '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.

'It seems very quickly that the dolphins have come back into this waterway.' 

'Normally this entire area would be full of fast ferries taking people from Hong Kong to Macau and back again,' Porter added. 

'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.' 

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The lull in water traffic has given scientists a rare opportunity to study how underwater noise affected the dolphins' behaviour. 

From a small rubber boat, Porter and her team drop microphones into the water and use drones to watch for dolphins.

The research suggests the dolphins had adapted more rapidly than expected to the quiet environment, and the population was likely to rebound when such stressors were removed, Porter said.

Scientists think there are about 2,000 dolphins in the entire Pearl River estuary. 

Marine scientist Lindsay Porter (pictured) said the lull in water traffic in the waters near Hong Kong has given scientists a unique opportunity to study how the dolphins respond to underwater sound 

A Hong Kong government survey from 2019 found only about 52 dolphins entered the waters around the Asian financial hub, but Porter believes the real number may be slightly higher.

'I sometimes feel that we're studying the slow demise of this population, which can be really sad,' she said.

Still, even if this population's decline could not be stopped, the research could help other dolphin populations elsewhere, she said.

Hong Kong's conservation plans have focused on opening marine parks, where ship traffic is limited but not banned. Three of those areas are frequented by dolphins.

The Hong Kong WWF, a conservation group, and Porter said such measures were inadequate as dolphins were still in danger of being hit by ferries as they moved between the protected areas.

'It means that if we did have a comprehensive management plan in Hong Kong with more effective conservation measures, we might be able to quickly stop the decline in the dolphin population,' she said.

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Tags: coronavirus lockdown the dolphins the dolphins

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New Box Set Has Trove of Rare, Unreleased Elton John Songs

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elton John is opening up his vault and releasing an expansive collection of rarely heard and unreleased tracks.

John announced Thursday that the eight-CD collection, “Elton: Jewel Box," will be released on Nov. 13. The collection includes “Sing Me No Sad Songs,” an unreleased studio demo from 1969.

The “Jewel Box” collection includes 148 songs, 60 of them unreleased, that span recordings from 1965 to 2019 and his early collaborations with songwriter Bernie Taupin.

Two of the CDs include songs specially chosen by John, along with narration about them by the six-time Grammy winner.

“Hearing these long lost tracks again, I find it hard to comprehend just how prolific Bernie and I were during the early days. The songs just poured out of us, and the bands were just unbelievable in the studio,” John said in a statement. “I always want to push forward with everything I do and look to the future, but having time during lockdown to take stock and pull these moments from my memory from each era has been a joy.”

No price for the collection was announced.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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