China opens first rescue center for endangered white dolphins

Xinhua, July 24, 2011

A rescue and breeding base for endangered Chinese white dolphins started a trial operational period on Saturday in the southeastern seaside resort of Xiamen. The base is the first of its kind in the country.

The base, located on the city's Huoshaoyu Islet, includes a rescue center and a breeding area and can accommodate up to four to six white dolphins, said Pan Shijian, vice mayor of Xiamen.

Previously, rescuers had to return injured white dolphins back to the sea after giving them simple medical treatment due to the lack of a rescue base, Pan said.

"From now on, the base will be a hospital for injured or stranded dolphins," he said.

The base will also be used as a rehabilitation center for children with infantile autism and brain paralysis, with the dolphins acting as "doctors" during the children's recovery period, he added.

The Chinese white dolphin mainly lives in the seas around Xiamen and the Pearl River estuary in south China. The dolphins are under first-class state protection.

The Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences estimates that about 2,000 of the dolphins are living in China's seas.