Hong Kong - A Hong Kong airline Wednesday agreed to stop the transfer of live dolphins on its cargo planes after coming under pressure from activists and the public.

More than 6 400 people signed an online petition after Hong Kong Airlines Ltd last week admitted flying five dolphins from Osaka, Japan, to Hanoi on January 16.

"Since it is believed that transportation of this nature can result in endangering wildlife elsewhere, Hong Kong Airlines will immediately ban shipments of this kind," the company said in a statement to animal welfare groups Wednesday.

An internal memo was leaked last week congratulating airline staff for the more than $100 000 in revenue from the transfer and showing a photo of the dolphins in narrow plastic berths on the plane.

Because the plane took off from Osaka, protesters said the dolphins probably originated from Taiji, the area featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, where dolphins are captured and slaughtered in the thousands every year.

The documentary also said the hunters sell some live dolphins to international buyers.

The airline has declined to say where the dolphins came from or were sent, citing commercial reasons. Other sources said they were believed to have gone to an aquarium or theme park in northern Vietnam. - Sapa-DPA