Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Report 2007-2008
[Director's Message] [Overview] [Agriculture] [Fisheries]
[Inspection and Quarantine] [Nature Conservation]
[Country and Marine Parks] [Appendices]
WORK OF THE CONSERVATION BRANCHThe objectives of the branch are:
NATURAL ENVIRONMENTHong Kong's topography and subtropical climate provide a wide range of habitats that support a rich variety of flora and fauna. Scenically, it has a great deal to offer – a landscape rising from sandy beaches and rocky foreshores to a height of almost 1 000 metres, with woodlands and hilly areas covered by open grassland, as well as a variety of scenic vistas rarely seen in such a small locale.
In Hong Kong, there are more than 3 100 species of vascular plants, of which about 2 100 are native; some 50 species of mammals; 480 species of birds; 160 species of freshwater fish; 80 species of reptiles and more than 20 amphibian species. Insect diversity is also very high with more than 230 species of butterflies and 110 types of dragonflies.
ENHANCED NATURE CONSERVATIONUnder the New Nature Conservation Policy announced in November 2004, 12 priority sites have been identified for enhanced conservation through public-private partnership (PPP) and management agreements with landowners (MA). The Department is responsible for monitoring PPP and MA projects selected for implementation by the private sector or non-governmental organisations in these sites.
As at March 2008, the pilot MA projects at Long Valley and Fung Yuen had been carried out for about two years. There had been increases in the number and diversity of birds and butterflies there, suggesting that the MA scheme was effective in enhancing the conservation value of the sites. In addition to the direct benefit to biodiversity, the projects also raised the conservation awareness of the public and local villagers. Noting the merits of the MA scheme, in early 2008, the Environment and Conservation Fund supported the continuation of the scheme and approved funds for these projects to continue for another two years.
ECOLOGICAL SURVEYS AND DATABASEThe Department has been conducting a territory-wide ecological survey programme since 2002 with a view to maintaining and updating an ecological database for the whole of Hong Kong. The survey programme covers all major habitats of high conservation value in Hong Kong, including the location, status and composition of fung shui woods, as well as the distribution and abundance of selected animal groups. As at March 2008, more than 64 000 records of some 1 500 species of plants and animals had been collected, verified, and stored in the database.
The survey findings confirm that Hong Kong has a rich biodiversity, including species new to Hong Kong and even new to science. The findings further indicate that our protected areas encompass a very significant portion of this biodiversity. For the species groups surveyed and analysed, more than 95% of the terrestrial and freshwater representatives that are regularly seen in Hong Kong have representative population(s) inside our protected areas.
During the year, the Department continued to boost public interest in local biodiversity and win public support for nature conservation through its online database on representative species and habitats at Hong Kong Biodiversity Online (www.hkbiodiversity.net). The Department also developed a central database using the Geographical Information System which incorporates survey data and ecological information available from other sources.
THE MAI PO INNER DEEP BAY RAMSAR SITESince August 2001, the Department has implemented the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site Ecological Monitoring Programme. This long-term monitoring programme aims to collect ecological baseline information on the marine benthic communities, over-wintering waterbird counts and the extent of habitation at the Ramsar Site.
From October 2007 to March 2008, the highest winter count of waterbirds at the Ramsar Site was about 90 140, including some 35 070 ducks and grebes, some 27 720 shorebirds, some 11 790 gulls and terns, some 11 140 cormorants, some 3 550 egrets and herons, and some 870 rails and coots. In comparison with the winter figure for 2006, there was a 13% increase in the population of waterbirds in the Ramsar Site and it was the highest record since the 1992-93 winter.
BLACK-FACED SPOONBILLSThe Black-faced Spoonbill is a globally endangered species that can only be found in the East Asia region. In the 2007-08 winter, the global population survey recorded 2 065 individuals which represented a record high annual increase of 20%. About 18% of them made the Inner Deep Bay area their winter or stop-over migration site. The area has the second largest number of wintering Black-faced Spoonbills in the East Asia region.
Accordingly, maintaining the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site in favourable conditions for the wintering Black-faced Spoonbills in Hong Kong has been an important aspect of the territory's conservation plan since 2001. Other parts of the plan include safeguarding the site; species and habitat management; monitoring and research; education and training; as well as regional cooperation.
CONTROL OF TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES
The Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance is the local legislation which gives effect to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In 2007-08, steps were taken to amend the Ordinance to give effect to the changes that were adopted by the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP14) to the Convention. More species would be added to the control list, including Sawfish, European Eel and Brazil Wood.
Efforts in combating illegal trade in endangered species continued. During the year, 279 seizures were made, including a shipment of 945 live common rat snakes from Thailand, 110 kg of ivory from Kenya and 17 kg of rhinoceros horns from South Africa.
The achievement of Hong Kong in enforcement received recognition in the international arena. At CoP14 in June 2007, the Department was awarded the "Ecomessage Award" by Interpol for its commitment to combating illegal trade in endangered species. The Department was the second recipient of the award since the latter was established in 2004.
The Department continued its educational and promotional efforts to raise public awareness of the need to protect endangered species, such as organising visits to the Department's Endangered Species Resource Centre; conducting talks in schools and roving exhibitions at public venues; distributing posters and leaflets as well as arranging displays at the airport and border control points. The "Protect Endangered Species Logo Design Competition", co-organised with a local newspaper, was well received with over 5 000 entries from 113 primary and secondary schools. Under the joint education and publicity programme between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Guangdong Province, a trader seminar and a training course for CITES enforcement officials were conducted.
THE HONG KONG WETLAND PARK
The Hong Kong Wetland Park was opened in May 2006. It is a landmark in wetland conservation, with a mission to promote eco-tourism in Hong Kong and foster public awareness of the values of wetlands. The design of the Park has won much praise. Since its opening, the Park has received over 15 awards including the "2007 Urban Landscape Institute Awards for Excellence" (Global Award and Asia Pacific Award) and "Excellence on the Waterfront 2007" of the 2007 Waterfront Centre's 21st Annual International Honour Awards Programme.The Park combines the natural beauty of 60 hectares of re-created wetland with a visitor centre of over 10 000 square meters showcasing sophisticated exhibits on wetlands. During the year, the Park attracted more than 630 000 visitors.
The Department is responsible for the management of the Park, with respect to daily operation, education and promotion, exhibit maintenance and habitat management.
In 2007–08, the Park conducted some 4 100 guided visits for nearly 87 000 students and visitors. A set of factsheets on 20 topics was produced to help teachers and the public to understand more about wetland ecology as well as our conservation work. In addition, a total of 18 public seminars attended by over 1 200 visitors were held at the Park. The Park recruited more than 2 600 volunteers under the Wetland Park Volunteers Scheme since its opening. These volunteers assisted in the operation of the visitor centre at the Park and offered guided tours for visitors. They also participated in outdoor habitat management work. By March 2008, the cumulative number of man-days served by the volunteers had exceeded 7 000.
The Park plays an important role in promoting wetland conservation and education in the Asia Pacific region. Being a key player of the Wetland Link International – Asia (WLI-Asia) network, the Park organised the Inter-school Education Programme from August 2007 to April 2008. 13 wetland centres from 9 countries / regions recruited secondary schools in their countries / regions to join wetland study projects. Outstanding projects from the programme are available for public access at WLI-Asia website.Since 2003, the Department has been conducting habitat management at the Wetland Reserve with a view to enhancing its ecological functions. The species richness of birds recorded has since increased, and the cumulative number of bird species recorded has exceeded 220. Waterbirds or birds dependent on wetlands which make up approximately 37% of all species have been recorded. The freshwater marshes were becoming more attractive to ducks in the winter of 2007-08. In addition to birds, ecological surveys conducted at the Reserve have recorded a variety of other species especially the wetland indicators – dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles. The cumulative numbers of dragonfly, amphibian and reptile species recorded at the Reserve are 42, 9 and 17 respectively. This shows that, with proper site design and management, the objectives of nature conservation, education and tourism can co-exist.
HONG KONG HERBARIUM AND FLORA CONSERVATION
The Department manages the Hong Kong Herbarium which is responsible for the systematic collection, identification and maintenance of plant specimens of Hong Kong's flora. During the year, the specimen collection of the Herbarium exceeded 40 000, more than 280 of which are type specimens, making the Herbarium regionally important.The Hong Kong Herbarium together with the South China Botanical Garden compiled the Flora of Hong Kong. It is a definitive technical reference aimed at recording all known plant species in Hong Kong, and is the first flora book about plants of South China written in English and fully illustrated with colour photographs and botanical drawings. During the year, in the course of this project, some plant species were newly recorded, including a species new to science. The discovery of Syzygium impressum, of the Myrtaceae family, was published in botanical literature, based on a type specimen collected from Hong Kong. This species is also described in Volume 2 of the Flora of Hong Kong published in early 2008.
In addition to being a resource centre for plant workers, the Herbarium aims to promote public awareness of local flora through organising guided visits and publishing educational materials.
SITES OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) may be land-based or aquatic sites, which are of special scientific interest because of their flora, fauna, geographical or geological features. During the year, the Department continued to patrol and monitor the conditions and scientific values of all SSSIs. Where warranted, the Department also carried out appropriate habitat management work at some SSSIs to maintain or enhance their scientific value. For instance, Mikania control was conducted at A Chau SSSI to improve the conditions of the trees there so as to provide a suitable site for egrets and herons to nest. The Department also continued to review the status of SSSIs and identify new sites suitable for SSSI listing or make proposals for de-listing those sites no longer deserving the SSSI status due to changes in circumstances over time after their listing. In 2007-08, newly designated SSSIs include Lin Ma Hang Stream, Siu Lang Shui and Deep Water Bay Valley. One SSSI, Tsing Shan Tsuen, was de-listed from the SSSI Register.
CONTROL OF MIKANIA
Mikania (Mikania micrantha) is an exotic climber which grows rapidly in open and disturbed areas, such as roadsides and derelict land. The overgrowth of Mikania causes damage to other plants by cutting out light and smothering them. Since Mikania seldom grows in the shade, it does not result in any adverse impact on established woodlands with large trees and a close canopy.
To prevent the proliferation of Mikania in any sites with conservation value, the Department continued to clear the plant when it was found in country parks, special areas and SSSIs. Besides mechanical weeding, habitat management control was applied on a trial basis.
In addition, the Department has prepared the Nature Conservation Practice Note "Clearing Mikania" which provides technical guidance to relevant government departments and landscape contractors responsible for the clearance of Mikania. The Department has also set up a website on Mikania for the public. The URL is:http://www.afcd.gov.hk/textonly/english/conservation/con_flo/About_Mikania/
CONTROL OF WILD MONKEYS
The wild monkey population in Hong Kong has been increasing in recent years and has caused public concern. To control the unnatural population increase in the long term, the Department has stepped up the field trial of contraceptive treatment. In 2007–08, the Department carried out such treatment on 291 monkeys. The Department has also strengthened the enforcement of feeding ban in specific country parks to minimise monkey nuisance to visitors. In 2007-08, a total of 66 country park visitors were prosecuted for unauthorised feeding of wild monkeys.