Ocean Park Hong Kong
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Research

Ex-situ Research

As a zoological facility, Ocean Park provides an ex-situ environment (out of an animal’s natural habitat) for scientific research. This can help researchers avoid some of the barriers and complications in the field, thus offering them an easier way to study the biology and behaviour of their subjects leading to enhanced conservation and care. It is often difficult, for example, to obtain frequent and regular data or samples from marine wildlife. Our ex-situ setting allows researchers to conduct long-term observation, while monitoring the animals closely. Such information can serve as a framework for further studies and, through application in the wild, act as a key to understand and conserve a species.


Artificial Reproduction

Artificial Reproduction

In 1993, Ocean Park established a scientifically-controlled breeding programme for dolphins in its care. This had rarely, if ever, been accomplished. In 2000, in collaboration with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and SeaWorld in the United States, the Park achieved the world’s first successful conception of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins using artificial insemination. The breakthrough put the collaboration at the forefront of reproductive physiology and managed breeding of marine mammals in zoological settings. It has not only helped protect bottlenose dolphins, but could also be applied with other animals such as sharks and finless porpoises in Asia. The technology can help develop new methods for preserving reproductive material under very low temperatures for many other species, as well as eggs and tissue, that one day—generations from now—could be used to create life. Such outcomes can also motivate and train enthusiastic young students who have never before considered wildlife reproduction or conservation as a career.

Publications and presentations:
Brook, F., & Kinoshita, R. (2004). Ultrasonographic assessment of the ovarian cycle in the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) at Ocean Park, Hong Kong and its use in controlled natural breeding and artificial insemination: twelve years on (Abstract). IAAAM Proceedings 2004.
Brook, F., Kinoshita, R., Spielman, D., Mauroo, N., Rourke, N., & Rayner, C. (2004). Artificial insemination in the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) (Abstract). IAAAM Proceedings 2004.


Biosonar Research

Biosonar Research

Since 2005, The Biosonar Research Project, a collaboration between Ocean Park and the National University of Singapore, has been investigating how dolphins use echolocation (sonar) to recognise shapes and interpret the environment with amazing efficiency. Using a Matching-To-Sample theory, the dolphins involved in this programme are asked to echolocate on a sample object concealed in a box, then to match it to one of several alternatives displayed visually in the air. The acoustic data collected in these tests helps us understand how dolphin echolocation works, its capabilities and its limitations. It can also give us some insight into the impact of human activities on wild populations, thus helping formulate conservation measures for dolphins.

Publications and presentations:
M. Hoffmann-Kuhnt, M. Chitre, R. Wellard, J. Lee, G. Abel, K. Yeo, & J.-L. Chew. (2011). “Is synthetic aperture an essential tool for echoic shape recognition in dolphins?,” in IEEE OCEANS'11 Kona.
M. Hoffmann-Kuhnt, R. Wellard, J. Lee, E. Matrai, & M. A. Chitre. (2011). Cross-modal matching of rotated stimuli by a bottlenose dolphin. 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, United States.


Cooperative Enrichment Research

Cooperative Enrichment Research

A recent ex-situ research programme on cognitive enrichment depends on cooperation among dolphins for its success. The study aims to examine solutions used and the formation of cooperative behaviour among pairs of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins when presented with a novel task. This research is an exceptional opportunity to compare the performance of dolphins of different age, gender, relatedness, and social status. In addition, the programme aims to establish a personality profile of each dolphin to assess the effects of individual differences on cognitive strategies.

Breeding and Reintroduction of the Yellow-Bibbed Lory

Breeding and Reintroduction of the Yellow-Bibbed Lory

The beautiful yellow-bibbed lory (Lorius chlorocercus), a parrot species native to the eastern Solomon Islands, has highly specialized dietary requirements and specific territorial behaviour. Thousands of these birds are believed to have been taken from the wild as part of the illegal wildlife trade and subsequently died in captivity during the 19th century. Since 2014, the Park has been part of a collaborative breeding programme to establish an ex-situ assurance population and reintroduce the birds back into their original habitat.

Collaborative Conservation Breeding of Hard Corals

Collaborative Conservation Breeding of Hard Corals

In collaboration with the Swire Institute of Marine Science of the University of Hong Kong (HKU-SWIMS), Ocean Park is breeding and growing local species of hard corals for education and research. To establish assurance populations and increase the genetic diversity, the partnership involves the exchange of scientific, technical, and practical skills and knowledge. The project aims to create a collaborative scientific research platform for studying hard corals. The long-term goal is to conserve hard corals by reintroducing common species to coastal habitats in Hong Kong that have a history of coral community degradation.