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Loss of A Newborn Dolphin Calf

2015-04-02

Ocean Park is saddened to announce the loss of a dolphin calf that was born on 30 March 2015 after surviving only 73 hours.

The calf’s birth was not a normal or an easy birth, with labour lasting over three hours, whereas it would normally be two hours.   The calf also displayed some irregular behaviours, including an abnormal swimming pattern, a prolonged suckling duration and difficulty in staying alongside her mother when she was not suckling. Her mother had assisted the calf to the surface for taking a breath on two occasions.  The caregivers and veterinary staff were with the calf throughout its short life observing and offering assistance to the last moment.  

Necropsy results revealed that the calf's stomach was empty with no evidence of milk clots, confirming that the calf had indeed failed to feed adequately.  It was also found that approximately 25% of her lungs were not fully expanded, her right flipper shoulder joint was excessively lax and her liver was abnormal, while the significance of those lesions will require more investigations. Further results from histopathology will be available within the month.

The baby girl's mother is a 23-year old dolphin who is now staying with other female dolphins at the Park's Marine Mammal Breeding and Research Centre, and will be closely monitored for the next few days.

While the death of a newborn is a particularly sad event, we are aware that the first days in life are the most fragile in all species. The same species in the wild have been extensively studied in Western Australia where 29% of dolphins born in the wild do not survive beyond their first year, and overall 44% of calves do not survive to three years of age (Mann et al 2000).

The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was notified of the calf’s death.