Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong commits to protecting wild freshwater turtles and combating poaching
The 28th Ocean Park Conservation Day showcases the golden coin turtle, which is likely functionally extinct in the wild OPCFHK to allocate HK$5 million towards scientific conservation projects

(From the left) Dr Patrick Chen, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Francis Cheng, Fundraising Committee member of OPCFHK, Virginia Yung, Fundraising Committee member of OPCFHK, Artist Myolie Wu, Ivan Wong, Chief Executive of Ocean Park Corporation and Trustee Member of OPCFHK, Mickey Lai, Deputy Director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK, Chan Hoi-wan, Conservation Advocate of OPCFHK, Howard Chuk, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, Ysanne Chan, Trustee Member of OPCFHK, Peter Wong, Fundraising Committee member of OPCFHK, Dr Michael Lau, the local herpetologist.

(Hong Kong, 30 November 2023) The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) today hosted the kick-off ceremony for the 28th Ocean Park Conservation Day, centred around the theme “Combat Illegal Poaching to Safeguard the Future of Freshwater Habitats”. Taking place from 2 to 3 December 2023, the Conservation Day will be held at Ocean Park to raise awareness about the crucial connection between freshwater turtles and biodiversity, as well as the threats posed by illegal hunting to conservation species. To deepen public understanding of the local freshwater biodiversity and native freshwater turtles, the freshwater turtle and ecosystem educational exhibition “Dive into Local Diversity” will feature the golden coin turtle, which represents the most severely captured local freshwater turtle species.

“Over half of the world's freshwater turtle species are currently facing threats. In Hong Kong, four out of the five native freshwater turtle species are classified as critically endangered or endangered. These species have experienced a significant decline in numbers in recent years, primarily due to poaching and trafficking. OPCFHK is dedicated to mobilising efforts across all sectors to collectively protect the local freshwater turtles and the habitats in streams. In line with the importance of conserving diverse habitats, OPCFHK is going to commit over HK$5 million to support research projects that contribute to the conservation of local biodiversity and habitats,” said Judy Chen, Foundation Chair of OPCFHK.

The 28th Ocean Park Conservation Day will spotlight the five species of local freshwater turtles: Reeves' turtle, golden coin turtle, Beale's-eyed turtle, Chinese soft-shelled turtle, and big-headed turtle, where visitors will learn about the measures and actions implemented to protect these local freshwater turtles through educational game booths and displays. In the dedicated exhibition area for the golden coin turtle, the public will have the opportunity observe its bright orange skin and behaviour up close. The golden coin turtle is one of the 25 endangered turtle species globally. Hong Kong's Wild Animals Protection Ordinance safeguards all wild turtles, prohibiting their hunting and sale. Unfortunately, the illegal pet trade and the demand for these turtles in traditional Chinese medicine have created a significant market demand. This unfortunate circumstance has resulted in ongoing unlawful hunting and sales, pushing the species to the brink of extinction.

Our country parks provide crucial habitats for a diverse range of freshwater turtle species. However, the issue of illegal animal traps has been progressively spreading. From 2020 to 2022, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has seized over 400 of these traps. In addition to the ongoing efforts in rehabilitating freshwater turtles, OPCFHK, supported by the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF), has initiated the “Stream Conservation Warden” programme in collaboration with volunteer groups and hiking organisations. The primary objective of this programme is to recruit and train volunteers to identify and remove suspected turtle-catching devices while also cleaning up litter in nearby freshwater habitats. Through fostering collaboration across various sectors, the programme strives to conserve local native freshwater turtles and enhance freshwater biodiversity. If you encounter any suspicious animal traps, such as turtle cages, please report them promptly to the AFCD via 1823.

Mickey Lai, Deputy Director of the AFCD said, “The AFCD is committed to protecting endangered species and biodiversity all along. We work closely with OPCFHK and other partners to safeguard endangered freshwater turtles through initiatives such as captive breeding, species action plans, enhanced law enforcement, and various educational outreach activities to raise public awareness of conservation.”

“Wild freshwater turtles in Hong Kong are increasingly scarce while hunting activities persist. These turtles represent one of the few remaining healthy populations in southern China, making it crucial to combat poaching and protect this community. In addition to deploying infrared cameras in the wild to capture evidence of poaching, we can also utilise various scientific research tools to assess the threats faced by wild species and implement appropriate conservation measures. By doing so, we hope to enhance our ability to trace the origins of freshwater turtles in the future, while simultaneously supporting law enforcement efforts and preserving the natural habitats essential for their survival,” says Dr Michael Lau, the local herpetologist.

OPCFHK is delighted to announce the expansion of local research and conservation programmes in 2023-24, continuously working towards advancing conservation through scientific research and educational initiatives. An additional funding of HK$5 million will be allocated to support research projects focused on biodiversity in Hong Kong. Situated in subtropical area with stable rainfall and diverse landscape, Hong Kong provides a nurturing environment for a wide variety of local plant and animal species, with many habitats of high conservation value. The application process will begin in January 2024, inviting project proposals for Hong Kong habitat conservation, with the aim of encouraging broad participation from diverse sectors of society in conservation efforts. Further details about the funding programme will be announced soon.

Artist Myolie Wu shared her insights on protecting wildlife species during the ceremony. In addition to practicing what she preaches in her daily life, she believes in passing on her principles to the next generation. “Conservation work does not only support the recovery of endangered animal populations but also ensures the survival of all species. This crucial effort helps maintain biodiversity, which is intricately linked to our living environment. Protecting wildlife requires unwavering dedication and we can make a difference in our daily lives. To protect the wild habitats, we could bring our own water bottles and use environment friendly products to minimise pollution. Proactively cleaning up garbage in country parks is also essential to reduce the impact of human activities on wildlife. Lastly, education and guidance play a vital role in shaping the next generation's understanding of the human-nature relationship, fostering responsibility and care for conservation,” says Myolie Wu.

The 28th Ocean Park Conservation Day is one of the activities within Ocean Park's “Mission R” with the goal of “Saving species and habitats”. The Conservation Day will showcase educational booths highlighting important topics such as the detrimental effects of illegal wildlife trade on endangered species and the ecological harm caused by invasive species in freshwater ecosystems, enabling participants to deepen their understanding of the challenges faced by local freshwater turtles and the significance of conservation efforts. In addition to back-of-house tours that provide a first-hand look at the daily care provided by dedicated conservationists for freshwater turtles, there will also be an exhibition tour led by experts who will share valuable insights into conservation practices and specialised knowledge about these species. By providing such tours and exhibitions, the public can develop a greater awareness and cultivate a sense of responsibility for protecting Hong Kong’s wildlife.

Find out more about Ocean Park Conservation Day at https://www.opcf.org.hk/en/community-education/conservation-day. Visitors can also join “Conservation Hero Support Programme” and donate to support OPCFHK’s Asian Wildlife conservation work.

28th Ocean Park Conservation Day Details
Date: 2 to 3 December 2023 (Saturday and Sunday)
Time: 10:00am – 5:30pm Daily
Venue: Ocean Park, Hong Kong
Event highlights: Freshwater turtle and ecosystem educational exhibition – “Dive into Local Diversity”
Sharing from professional scientists and experts
Interactive and educational games

Photos from the 28th Ocean Park Conservation Day Kick-off Ceremony






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