OPCFHK and Ocean Park Spearhead Hong Kong’s Largest-ever Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Survey
19th Annual Ocean Park Conservation Day
OPCFHK and Ocean Park Spearhead Hong Kong’s Largest-ever Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Survey
Involving Over 1,000 Secondary Students and Public at 17 Sites
Ocean Park Showcases Achievements in Conserving Endangered Local Species
 (11 January 2014 – Hong Kong) Ocean Park and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) today co-hosted the 19th Ocean Park Conservation Day, and announced plans to join hands to spearhead Hong Kong’s largest-ever juvenile horseshoe crab population survey, marking a new chapter in conservation efforts for the iconic local species. Slated to take place in the summer of 2014, the initiative will span 17 horseshoe crabs’ spawning and nursery sites in Hong Kong and involve about 1,000 members of the public, including over 860 local students, with support from City University of Hong Kong (CityU). Building on the success of OPCFHK’s Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme, which has seen a dramatic increase in the survival rate of horseshoe crabs reared by local students from 16% to 76% since 2010, the new initiative expands the involvement of local students to field surveys for educational and research purposes.
Today’s event was attended by Dr. Allan Zeman, Chairman of Ocean Park; Ms Judy Chen, Chair of OPCFHK; Mr. Joseph Sham, Assistant Director (Country and Marine Parks) of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD); local celebrity Ms Gigi Leung, Marine Conservation Ambassador for OPCFHK; Dr. Amanda Vincent, Director and Co-founder of Project Seahorse; and Dr. Paul Shin, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry, CityU. At today’s Conservation Day, guests learned more about the impact of marine debris, marine traffic and overfishing on the oceans and marine animals through different presentations and displays.
Dr. Allan Zeman said, “Ocean Park has long supported the conservation of local species. We accomplished this by establishing and continuously donating to OPCFHK, which has played a key role in conserving Chinese white dolphins, seahorses, horseshoe crabs and more. During the 2012/13 fiscal year, we donated a record high of HK$13.7 million to OPCFHK. Ocean Park also directly engaged in the conservation of local species through breeding efforts and helping care for rescued and confiscated animals handed over from the AFCD.”
Since 2005, Ocean Park has worked with the AFCD and Kadoorie Farm to breed native species of freshwater fish, amphibians and reptiles of conservation importance, and set up educational displays of native species to raise public awareness of the importance of their conservation. Over the years, Ocean Park has successfully bred 91 Romer’s tree frogs, 39 Hong Kong newts and 36 Hong Kong paradise fish. All three species are protected under Hong Kong’s Wild Animals Protection Ordinance. The Park’s zoological staff also shared their experience in breeding these unique local species at the annual China Aquarium Conference held in October 2013. In addition, Ocean Park has been collaborating with AFCD to care for stranded or confiscated endangered animals on a volunteer basis. In 2013, the Park received 11 endangered animals, mainly green sea turtles or hawksbill turtles, five of which were released into the wild.
Ms Judy Chen, Chair of OPCFHK, said, “The Foundation is grateful to Ocean Park’s annual donations, which have reached over HK$71.3 million since 2005 and have empowered the Foundation to help protect biodiversity in Asia. Direct contributions from visitors to Ocean Park through donation boxes and our Octopus donation mechanism have provided a further HK$2.9 million to support our conservation efforts. For the 2013/14 fiscal year, we have committed over HK$7.4 million to support 46 projects involving 28 species in 12 Asian countries. A total of 15 projects concern two focal species, Chinese white dolphin and giant panda, while the rest cover 26 species, 12 of which are critically endangered species, including Delacour’s langur, northern white-cheeked gibbon, gharial and Siamese crocodile.” 
Mr. Joseph Sham, Assistant Director (Country and Marine Parks) of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said, “Local species are an important part of Hong Kong’s natural heritage, and the conservation of which requires the concerted efforts of the government and all sectors of society. NGOs such as Ocean Park and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong continue to make significant contributions to the protection of local biodiversity. They also play an important role in raising awareness among the public and involving the younger generation in this meaningful cause.”
Ms Suzanne Gendron, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, said, “We are proud to strengthen our platform of horseshoe crab conservation by engaging more members of the Hong Kong public and extending their involvement to population surveys. Since 2009, over 1,800 students have taken part in our Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme, organised in collaboration with CityU, resulting in 975 horseshoe crabs released in their natural habitats to replenish wild populations. This year, we will organise the largest-ever survey of juvenile horseshoe crabs, involving nearly 1,000 people at spawning sites in Hong Kong, to deepen our understanding of the conservation status of local populations. In addition to participants of the Rearing Programme, students from Ocean Park Summer School and staff members of our partners will be offered the opportunity to join the survey. This is the first time we are providing horseshoe crab conservation fieldwork experience to secondary school students and members of the general public.”
Dr. Paul Shin, said, “Figures from a previous study indicate that local populations of juvenile horseshoe crabs may only number about 10,000 individuals. The new survey will provide important data for monitoring their conservation status and help inform long-term conservation strategies. Participants not only will learn fundamental surveying skills, they will also gain valuable fieldwork experience while helping contribute to the conservation of an iconic local species. The potential spawning and nursery sites comprise mudflats in northwestern New Territories, Lantau Island, northeastern New Territories and Lamma Island.”
Ms. Gigi Leung, who took part in OPCFHK’s recent “Speak Up for Our Oceans” campaign by wearing “animal-ipsticks” to help raise public awareness, joined the Foundation again to promote marine conservation. Ms Leung, Marine Conservation Ambassador for OPCFHK, said, “I consider it a precious opportunity to be able to give a voice to marine life.”
At today’s Conservation Day event, Park guests not only learned about the impact of marine debris, marine traffic and overfishing on marine life and the ocean, they also had the opportunity to take in mesmerising images captured by award-winning conservation photographers at the beautiful double barrier reef system of Danajon Bank in the Philippines. Hong Kong is the third stop of this exhibition travelling from North America to Asia and then Europe. Supported by OPCFHK, the initiative is a collaboration between Project Seahorse, one of the world’s leading marine conservation organisations, and the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP).
Ms Chen concluded, “We are truly touched by the generous support of Ocean Park, Tiffany & Co and other sponsors, which made this year’s Conservation Day such a resounding success. I would also like to pay tribute to all the media sponsors that helped our “Speak Up For Our Oceans” public awareness campaign achieve extensive exposure across the city.”
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