You've probably seen breathtaking pictures of the Chinese white dolphin — a species that can carry a playful pink hue as it gets older.

But conservationists warn that the dolphins living north of Hong Kong's Lantau island may be threatened by upcoming construction plans.

The dolphins have already suffered devastating declines. Since 2003, individuals living in Hong Kong waters have dropped from 158 to around 60. The area's notoriously bad pollution can take most of the blame, but conservationists blame ferry traffic, overfishing, and habitat loss due to construction as well. They argue that a proposed expansion to Chek Lap Kok airport might be the final straw.

"We think that if that project goes ahead, then it will probably drive the dolphin away from Hong Kong waters," Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, told the AFP. "In some ways it seems like we are pushing them closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and if we're making that final push, they will be gone forever. I think now is the time to get our act together."

Locals who rely on the dolphins for their livelihood — unsurprisingly, the pink flippers make for a big tourist attraction — are more blasé about the issue.

"These natural things won't disappear... if you are not actively eliminating them, then they won't go away," tourist boat operator Wong Yung-kan told the AFP. Unfortunately, conservationists know that this couldn't be further from the truth — especially in the busy, polluted waters surrounding Hong Kong.

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