OPCFHK and City University Led Students and Business Sector to Release Hand-raised Horseshoe Crabs to the Wild

  OPCFHK and City University Led Students and Business Sector to Release Hand-raised Horseshoe Crabs to the Wild 

Population of Local Juvenile Horseshoe Crabs Has Dropped Below 10,000 
Citizen Scientists were Trained to Conduct Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Population Survey

(July 9, 2014 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) and City University of Hong Kong (CityU) co-organised the fourth year of Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme. Thanks to the tremendous support and sponsorship of State Street Asia Limited, over 150 teachers and students from 30 local secondary schools gathered at Ha Pak Nai, Yuen Long on June 28 and July 2 respectively, and released over 250 horseshoe crabs to their natural habitat to replenish their wild population. The number of local juvenile horseshoe crabs only totals 10,000, according to the findings of a study conducted by CityU in 2012 at 17 spawning and nursery sites in Hong Kong. This “living fossil” was recorded only at 11 of the 17 survey sites, in which the shores of Pak Nai and Ha Pak Nai, important habitats of horseshoe crabs in Hong Kong, support 60% of the estimated population of juvenile Chinese horseshoe crabs. However, the species is currently not protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance, and may soon disappear in Hong Kong unless effective measures are taken urgently. In order to enhance our understanding of the species, Hong Kong’s largest-ever juvenile horseshoe crab survey will be kick-started in mid-July. The Foundation equipped students with field survey skills during the two releases, such as essential tool usage and species identification, hence to conduct the population survey using both methodology of random quadrat sampling and walk-through search.

Ms Suzanne Gendron, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, stated that “The Foundation has always emphasised the importance of cultivating and inspiring youths to become stewards to save biodiversity. Moreover, we are committed to promoting the concept of “citizen scientist” so general public can engage in scientific research and contribute to wildlife conservation. We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to State Street Asia Limited for their generous support. Their sponsorship provided additional funding that enabled schools to organise community educational and promotional activities, including exhibitions, seminars and promotional videos, on horseshoe crab conservation to influence their peer groups and families. One of the participating schools even won an open competition with a scientific research initiated by students, which studied the effects of presence of light, type of foods and water waves on horseshoe crab’s growth and activities. This is a strong proof that the programme has successfully trained students with a scientific mindset and inspired them to develop a lifelong commitment to wildlife protection.”

Dr. Paul Shin, Associate Professor at the Department of Biology and Chemistry, CityU, said, “It is estimated that there are about 4,500 juvenile Chinese horseshoe crabs and 3,000 juvenile mangrove horseshoe crabs on the 17 studied sites using random quadrat sampling method. The total number has dropped to less than 10,000 individuals and horseshoe crabs may disappear in Hong Kong very soon! The population survey aims at documenting the abundance and population distribution of juvenile horseshoe crabs on their spawning and nursery shores in Hong Kong. In view of the low abundance of the juvenile encountered, an additional walk-through search was conducted to complement the data recorded from quadrat sampling. Accumulated records can be used for comparison to identify any trend of population changes over time. We hope to obtain more valuable information for the development of effective conservation management plans.”

Ms Natalie Wu, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, State Street Asia Limited, shared, “Sponsoring and supporting the Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme provides us a great opportunity to demonstrate our corporate citizenships. In the past six months, our staff voluntarily participated in several horseshoe-crab-conservation-related activities. They brought their knowledge, professional skills and expertise into full play as the students’ mentors; and assisted students in planning and organising educational and promotional activities. Meanwhile, the programme has improved our staff’s understanding on horseshoe crab, and enhanced their interest in wildlife conservation and sustainable development, creating a win-win situation with the Foundation.”

Ms Suzanne Gendron concluded, “Horseshoe crabs have a significant evolutionary and biological value. For instance, the extract of horseshoe crab blood is widely used to test and detect bacterial endotoxins in medical drugs, products and devices and small amounts can be taken from the horseshoe crabs without harming them. In order to further advocate horseshoe crab conservation, OPCFHK joined the Beibuwan Coastal Resource and Ecology Workshop, and established the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong Horseshoe Crab Conservation Alliance with 15 other institutions. The Alliance enables us to integrate regional conservation efforts on horseshoe crab and protect the coastal ecosystem. Lastly, we want to call for more public support to conserve horseshoe crabs by not consuming this precious species, and treasuring our marine resources.”