Mainland officials have said they are investigating after photos of a dolphin being butchered on the streets of Zhuhai caused an outcry.

Photos showed the animal’s torso being split open and carved up by workers on a street, with its head in a styrofoam box nearby. They were uploaded to a local discussion group on social network Weibo Thursday evening.

Photo: Weibo.

A marine animal expert told state-funded outlet The Paper that they could tell by looking at photos that it was a young Chinese white dolphin – a Class I species under national protection. Laws prohibit the sale, purchase, or use of wild animals under national protection, and products made from them.

According to screenshots of a conversation between the local resident who reported the incident and the community group manager, the dolphin meat was selling for only 10RMB (HK$11) for half a kilogram.

The Zhuhai Ocean, Agriculture and Water Affairs Bureau said in a notice on Friday that fishermen found the animal floating in the local sea on Thursday morning. It was already dead at the time, they said.

Chinese White Dolphin. Photo: WikiMedia

The fishermen towed the carcass back to the pier and tried to sell the remaining meat after cutting the rotting parts away. They took the leftover parts home to eat, the notice said.

The Bureau said the fishery department began its investigation shortly after the Weibo user reported the incident. It summoned three local villagers for questioning by police at around 9pm and retrieved the animal remains discarded by the trio. The remains have been sent to researchers to determine whether it is indeed a Chinese white dolphin.

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Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.