Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong Speaks Up For
Threatened Asian Wildlife
allocates HK$6.8 million towards 24 Asian wildlife conservation projects in 2019-2020
(29 August 2019, Hong Kong) Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) announced today the funding of HK$6.8 million to support 24 new projects dedicated to conservation efforts focused on threatened Asian wildlife and their habitats. In addition to the Foundation’s focal species, the Chinese white dolphin and the giant panda, the newly funded projects will bump up the number of wildlife that OPCFHK supports in 2019-20 to 99 species, including freshwater turtles, Bryde’s whale, the Mongolian marmot and the Hong Kong grouper.
This comes right off the bat of successful funding efforts in the past couple of years, which include the establishment of nursery platforms for staghorn coral fragments in Hong Kong to provide a new hope of coral restoration and enhancing ecosystem resilience. The social science-based project in Cambodia also generated a great impact, resulting in the implementation of the National Wetland Guidance through participatory process, in which the sustainable management frameworks are crucial for protecting the habitats of endangered migratory water birds, such as the black-faced spoonbill. In May 2019, the Anlung Pring Protected Landscape was designated as Cambodia’s first East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership Site, which paved the way to the plan for the RAMSAR designation in 2019-20.
In line with the Foundation’s mission, the newly funded wildlife and social science-based conservation projects in 2019-20 focus on four major themes: climate change, endangered terrestrial and freshwater wildlife, marine conservation and combating the illegal trade of threatened species.
Overexploitation, pollution, and other forms of anthropogenic disturbances continue to threaten the marine wildlife in Asia. In particular, the Chinese white dolphin (CWD) – a species which OPCFHK has dedicated years to its conservation – hit a critically low population of about 2,000 in the wider Pearl River Estuary region. OPCFHK has therefore prioritised several CWD-related projects in mainland China and Hong Kong in the 2019-2020 funding cycle to urgently seek more effective ways to protect this threatened species from extinction. These projects will enhance the understanding of the CWD’s habitats and the threats they face in the wild, including the study of CWD’s whistle comparison and environmental adaptability, long-term monitoring with the support of drones and A.I. software, as well as the analysis of CWD’s habitat utilisation and activity patterns. Among the projects is the investigation of CWD’s night-time distribution through the application of acoustic line-transect survey techniques conducted by the Cetacea Research Institute, which will provide vital yet long lacking baseline evidence for comprehensive evaluation of current conservation measures and informing effective management decisions.
The illegal wildlife trade has emerged as one of the most significant threats to biodiversity globally. In fact, the high value of freshwater turtles in the illegal pet trade and its usage in traditional Chinese medicine means that many freshwater turtles are threatened, including all five species in Hong Kong. In 2017-18, OPCFHK funded a project to safeguard endangered local freshwater turtle populations. To further increase its significant conservation impact, this year, OPCFHK extended funding to a research project that uses data to strengthen trade enforcements of two endangered local (Hong Kong) species: the big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) and the Beal's-eyed turtle (Sacalia bealei). Apart from using infrared cameras to safeguard the key populations of local endangered turtles, the project will apply stable isotope analysis to distinguish the origin (wild or captive) of individual turtles to enhance enforcement against the illegal trade of wild turtles.
OPCFHK has also organised several local projects on replenishing the wild population of horseshoe crabs. This has been done through the Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing programme, population surveys, regular mudflat clean-ups and other education programmes. In 2019, the tri-spine horseshoe crab was officially listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that the Foundation’s conservation efforts are more critical than ever. To extend the study of this species beyond Hong Kong waters, OPCFHK has granted funding to a new project to carry out a survey of juvenile horseshoe crab populations and habitats in Kinmen, Penghu and Xiangshan wetlands in Taiwan. This project will also train volunteers to conduct citizen-science surveys and interview local fishermen. It aims to put the tri-spine horseshoe crab on the list of protected species in Taiwan, providing more stringent protection for this species.
Mr. Michael Boos, Foundation Director of OPCFHK, said “Unfortunately, overexploitation, pollution, and other forms of anthropogenic disturbances continue to put wildlife and their habitats at risk. At OPCFHK, we believe that humans, corporations and governments all have a role to play to advocate and ensure that Asian wildlife remains biologically diverse. OPCFHK is committed to facilitating this by continuing our support of scientists and researchers. We are confident that the outcome of their scientific studies will convert to the development of actionable conservation plans and programmes, and more critically, the successful conservation of these endangered species.”
Since its expansion in 2005, OPCFHK has allocated over HK$86.8 million to fund over 500 projects concerning more than 180 species in Asian countries and regions. These research efforts will continue to pave the way for effective conservation and enable biological diversity in Asian wildlife under the stewardship of humans, corporations and governments.
Asian wildlife conservation projects in 2019-2020: