Like the heroes on the famous American crime fighting television series CSI, this group of Hong Kong experts rely on latest gadgets. Using scanning and imaging techniques, they try to unravel the clues behind the carcasses – and see if someone was responsible for the deaths.
But unlike the popular American TV show, these City University researchers are not summoned to crime scenes. But their missions are to find out why and how dead sea whales and dolphins end up on Hong Kong shores.
When government officials are notified of such events, they inform Ocean Park experts, who head to the site and decide whether an immediate autopsy is needed. They sometimes hand over the scene to City University researchers.
The university's Dr Brian Kot claimed his team is the first in the world to use scanning and imaging techniques in such probes.
One advantage of these methods is that they allow researchers to carry out an initial study without having to touch the carcasses, thereby avoiding the risk of getting infections.
More than 30 sea mammals, such as Chinese white dolphins and finless porpoises, become stranded in Hong Kong every year, the experts say.
Kot said he was particularly concerned about the number of finless porpoises washing up on the city's shores, because nobody knows how many of them are out there.
Some porpoises and dolphins were found to have become stranded in the city's waters after being trapped in fishing nets or injured by vessels.
The experts study the dead sea mammals and try to determine if human activity led to their demise and if so, how. About 30 percent of dead porpoises found in Hong Kong waters meet their end from the actions of humans, he said.
To raise awareness of this problem, the university is organising an exhibition – aptly titled “CSI of Cetaceans: Hope of Solutions” – at the Science Museum until May 29.
Kot told RTHK's Jimmy Choi that they hope the grisly sight of marine life that met an unfortunate end in Hong Kong waters will show visitors how human activity is threatening the these marine creatures.