Whale becomes a star in bay off Shenzhen
A Bryde's whale, which netizens have nicknamed Xiaobu, feeds in the waters of Dapeng Bay in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. SHI LEI/NANFANG DAILY
Swimming its way to celebrity status, a juvenile Bryde's whale has been making the rounds on social media as it glides around in Dapeng Bay off Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
The whale has lingered in the bay for more than a week, with easy access to an ample food supply, blithely unaware of all the public attention it's getting on land, where a streaming video by a local broadcaster has received around 300,000 views.
When it was first spotted on June 29, fishermen thought it was a sperm whale. Later, it was identified more carefully as a Bryde's whale, a Class I protected species in China. It is 7 or 8 meters long and was affectionately named Xiaobu.
Hong Xiaoqun, head of the ecology and environment bureau of Dapeng New District, said the animal's visit, while rare, was also predictable. It probably entered the bay because fishing season was over and the coronavirus pandemic had eased the frantic pace of operations at Yantian Port from mid-May to the end of June, Hong said, so there was some welcome peace and quiet for the massive underwater beast.
More important, he added, a generally improved environment beckoned. The Bryde's whale belongs to an order of mammals known as cetaceans, whose members－including dolphins－have tails rather than hind limbs and flippers rather than forelegs. They like to live in groups and have high requirements for food and water quality.
Whales usually appear in seas where fish are abundant, said Liao Baolin, an expert at the Shenzhen Research Institute of Guangdong Ocean University. Every day, Xiaobu shows up to hunt in waters under the administration of Dapeng New District, which manages about one-fourth of Shenzhen's sea area.
Chen Mo, a cetacean research expert, said Xiaobu "appears to be in good condition".
"Monitoring should be strengthened," Chen said. "If whales show up in Dapeng Bay and continue to appear regularly, it indicates that Shenzhen has made significant progress in its marine ecology."
This is the second time a whale has appeared in the bay in 16 years. According to the book Chinese Cetaceans, the last visit was in 2005 near Sha Tau Kok in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Since the young whale was spotted, a conservation team has been working to protect it. Local residents rushed to the water to have a look, but were admonished by government experts to keep their distance.
"To satisfy the whale-lovers and help them understand the animal more deeply, we show its activities through a live broadcast on the website every day," Hong said. "Meanwhile, we make sure the whale can have free movement and fun."
To prepare for more frequent forays of whales into Dapeng Bay in the future, the municipal government is studying plans for long-term sustainable protective measures.
"The coastal water quality in Shenzhen has improved greatly in the past five years," said Chen Cheng, a resident of Shenzhen, noting an increase in aquatic life. "In the coastal waters, it's easy to find jellyfish. I once came across a dolphin. So I hope whales will appear frequently in the future－no longer news but a normal state for the city."
Xiaobu is the second Bryde's whale to be recorded off the Chinese mainland. The first was in 2018 near Weizhou Island in the northern sea of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, experts said.