View Full Version : Mai Po Marshlands (米埔濕地)
February 23rd, 2005, 10:52 PM
A Look at Hong Kong's Wetlands
The wetlands around the Mai Po Marshes and Inner Deep Bay in the northwestern corner of Hong Kong, have been known as a haven for migratory birds for many decades.
Mai Po was not recognized as any form of protected area until 1976, when it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In 1984, WWF Hong Kong began to take active management of the Reserve for environmental education and conservation. In 1995, 1,500 ha of wetlands around Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay were formally designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The original managers of Mai Po, the gei wai shrimp pond operators, used to completely drain down their gei wai to harvest the fish inside the pond when the shrimp-harvesting season has ended from early winter.
When the gei wai is drained, the areas of shallow water or exposed mud on the pond floor would provide feeding and roosting habitats hundreds of for fish-eating birds, particularly herons, egrets and the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Since this traditional form of gei wai management can contribute to the ecological value of the site, WWF Hong Kong is continuing with the winter drain down of the gei wai on a rotation basis, one gei wai is drained every two weeks from November to March, in order to provide feeding habitat for the migratory waterbirds that passing through, or winter in Deep Bay.
In order to provide the best views for visitors of the many waterbirds in the draining gei wai, a net-screen will be placed across the Closed Area Fence Road end of the gei wai when they are drained, so that visitors can see the impressive numbers of herons, egrets and Black-face Spoonbills feeding and roosting in the draining pond.
What is There?
In recent years, over 60,000 waterbirds have wintered in and around the Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site, including endangered species such as Saunders' Gull and a quarter of the world's population of the Black-faced Spoonbill. During the Spring and Autumn migrations, some 20,000 to 30,000 waders regularly use the Mai Po mudflats as a site to rest and refuel before they continue their long journey.
In addition to the birds, the Reserve has many other features of importance. The heart of the reserve is made up of 24 traditionally operated shrimp ponds (locally called gei wai), which are now the only such ponds in Hong Kong, and possibly in southern China. This unique system of shrimp production is increasingly seen as an example of the sustainable use of a wetland because shrimp production relies on the natural productivity of Deep Bay. The ponds are stocked by flushing in the naturally occurring young shrimps from Deep Bay, which then feed on detritus and plankton inside the ponds.
The stand of inter-tidal mangroves fringing Mai Po and Deep Bay is the sixth largest in China, and the reedbed stands are one of the largest in Guangdong Province.
February 23rd, 2005, 11:00 PM
Rotary club opens nature center in Mai Po wetlands
Mike Cheung, Hong Kong Standard
February 24, 2005
A HK$500,000 nature center aimed at teaching everyone from students to fish farmers about wetland conservation has opened in Mai Po.
Five local Rotary clubs donated manpower and HK$500,000 to renovate the old Peter Scott Field Studies Centre for the project which also involved the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWF Hong Kong).
The Rotary Centennial Institute for Wetland Conservation will promote environmental education programs on wetland preservation.
The new institute kicked off its education efforts by producing a booklet on the sights and science of Mai Po Nature Reserve.
According to Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li, who was at the center's opening along with WWF chief executive Eric Bohm and Rotary representative Alex Mak, Get to Know Mai Po will sell for HK$28 and be available for sale by the end of next month.
The center's opening coincided with the centennial of the founding of Rotary International, a businessman's service club. Proceeds from the booklet will be reinvested into Rotary Centennial to fund future educational programs.
Li said with up to 40,000 people visiting the surrounding Mai Po reserve annually, including 10,000 primary and secondary school students, the institute will prove to be a valuable educational facility for students of all ages.
Looking to create more "environmental citizens" by introducing more field study trips and outdoor activities into Hong Kong's school curriculum, Li said he is confident the institute will lead students to work more actively for a "sustainable planet for the next generation."
Li held out hope the institute could even be useful to older students for research purposes.
"[Rotary Centennial] could be a key base for conducting scientific field research by secondary school, undergraduate and postgraduate students from universities in Hong Kong," he said.
Despite high hopes, Steve Cheung from Rotary Centennial said much more fundraising needs to be done before many of the loftier long-term education goals become a reality.
After the initial HK$500,000 was spent on the renovation, not much is left for environmental research scholarships that are in the institute's long-term sights.
Cheung said the institute has a fundraising goal of HK$200,000 to HK$300,000 within the next three years.
August 21st, 2005, 03:31 PM
'Unprecedented' oil spillage threatens Mai Po marshes
Chester Yung, Hong Kong Standard
Augsut 20, 2005
The Mai Po Nature Reserve in the northwest New Territories, a haven for endangered birds and animals, faces unprecedented environmental threat after about two hectares of ponds were polluted by oil, the Environment Protection Department (EPD) said Friday.
The World Wide Fund (WWF), which manages the Mai Po marshes, said the spillage was an "unprecedented incident."
The EPD spokeswoman said there is nothing to indicate the source of the pollutant which came from Deep Bay, behind Mai Po. "We believe it was caused by land dumping." she said.
Earlier, the authorities in Shenzhen abandoned plans to pump pollutants into Hong Kong's Deep Bay from a river bordering the SAR, avoiding a feared environmental disaster, particularly to the Mai Po Nature Reserve.
The Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department and EPD deployed staff to investigate the situation and clean up the pond.
It was under control by noon Friday, the spokeswoman said.
The EPD estimated the environmental damage should be minimum. "We haven't received any report of dead fish and birds," the spokeswoman said.
At present, Mai Po is a restricted zone where some 100,000 migratory and residential birds settle every year.
It forms part of the Ramsar site and is of international significance as a stopping and feeding place for migratory birds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
March 14th, 2006, 02:57 AM
WWF calls for Mai Po reopening
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The World Wildlife Fund wants a timetable for when it can reopen the Mai Po Nature Reserve after the government temporarily closed the wetlands last month.
Along with other bird-related attractions such as Ocean Park's bird exhibits, Mai Po has been closed since the start of February as a precaution against avian flu.
Mai Po park manager Lew Young questioned the rationale behind closing the reserve. "All the dead wild birds that have been found were [mostly] in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. So far there have been no cases in Mai Po and the northwestern New Territories," he said.
But a spokeswoman for the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said: "As the risk of avian influenza is still high, the administration will continue to closely monitor cases of wild birds infected by avian influenza so as to plan for the arrangements for reopening Mai Po Nature Reserve."
Young added that Hong Kong University regularly tests birds in the park.
A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said that in addition to the collection and testing of all sick, injured or dead birds from Mai Po, the department collects an average of 25 fecal samples every day. Up to 54,000 water birds seek refuge in Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay in the winter.
"It is not just the closure of Mai Po, it's the closure of many other places," Young said, citing Ocean Park exhibits and Tin Shui Wai wetlands.
"Every morning there are bird- watching classes that have been canceled, but the parks are still open. Every day people walk through these parks. So why cancel bird-watching classes if they're going to leave the parks open? Why not close the parks?"
Also Monday, eight pigeons, seven dead and one injured, were found in Happy Valley.
An AFCD spokesman said four of the pigeons appeared to have died from traffic, but all birds will be tested for the H5N1 virus. So far this year, 16 birds in Hong Kong have been found infected with the H5N1 virus.
April 14th, 2006, 07:47 AM
Mai Po Nature Reserve to be re-opened
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Government Press Release
Mai Po Nature Reserve, which has been closed since early February, will be re-opened from tomorrow (April 13).
"As there has not been any new case of birds infected with H5 virus for the past 21 days, which is the World Organisation for Animal Health's standard of an avian influenza infection-free place, the Government has decided to re-open the Mai Po Nature Reserve to the public," a Government spokesman said today (April 12).
All aviaries managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department would also be re-opened on the same day, he said.
But the spokesman warned that people should remain alert.
"People should observe good personal hygiene and avoid contact with wild birds. They should also wash hands thoroughly after contact with wild birds or their droppings," he said.
April 14th, 2006, 04:30 PM
very nice sanctuary in HK.
April 23rd, 2006, 05:33 PM
Hong Kong Leader Promotes Bird Watching
Sun Apr 23, 6:37 AM ET
HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong's leader is urging residents to take up bird watching, suggesting it can teach patience and help people achieve peace of mind.
"From watching birds you can learn restraint, endurance and focus — these are qualities a leader must have," Tsang said in an address Saturday on government-owned radio RTHK.
"Whether it's watching birds or watching fish, observing their relaxed state, focusing on discovering the joys of nature, one can put down one's pressures unconsciously and reach a peaceful state," he said.
Tsang, who says he has been a birder for more than a decade, noted Hong Kong, despite its small size, is a prime location for bird watching, with one-twentieth of the world's known species seen here.
He said he has been to Hong Kong's famed Mai Po bird reserve twice since becoming leader last year.
"No matter how powerful you are, you can't ask the birds to come out so that you can admire them. All we can do if wait with our binoculars, wait quietly," Tsang said.
Encouraging locals to take up his hobby, he said, "Hong Kongers lead a hectic working life ... everyone can try to find a time amid their noisy lives and watch the birds in the woods through binoculars quietly."
"I'm an impatient person. Bird watching provides a suitable balance. If we want to get close to nature, we have to operate according to the rhythm of nature," he added.
Referring to the recent bird flu outbreaks in Asia, Tsang said, "I hope the threat of bird flu ends quickly and man and nature return to harmony. But no matter what, I will go bird watching at Mai Po again soon."
April 29th, 2006, 05:15 PM
Pollution no deterrent to birdwatchers
29 April 2006
South China Morning Post
Pollution may have reduced visibility in recent years but Mai Po remains an internationally important bird reserve, especially in southern China.
There is certainly nowhere in Hong Kong that can match it as a place to witness spectacular flocks of birds circling at sunset.
The government's 10-week closure of the reserve amid the bird flu scare was a bitter blow to the many birdwatchers in the city - among them Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
The closure order was lifted on April 13 - just in time for a glimpse of some of the thousands of migratory birds which descend on this remote corner in the northwest of the city from early winter to late spring.
Some of the birds have been wintering there for weeks while other long-haul travellers transit through in their journeys back north.
The reserve consists of a vast area of fish ponds, or gei wai, and a huge area of intertidal mudflats.
Each year, 20,000 migratory waterfowl arrive in flocks and feed on the fishes and insects in the ponds, mudflats and vegetation. Visiting birds include the globally threatened black-faced spoonbill. More than 1,000 sightings are reported each year, accounting for a majority of its global population.
Just like any other ecologically important areas, the reserve's biggest threat is human development and environmental pollution.
It sits at the mouth of the heavily polluted Shenzhen River, overlooking the densely populated and industrialised areas in Shekou across Deep Bay. Increasing sediment deposits in the bay have accelerated the formation of "land" in the mudflats.
Excessive mangrove growth on the new land could deter birds that usually feed on organisms in the mudflats.
And the air pollution coupled with lower visibility has made observation more difficult for birdwatchers.
"It can't be denied that we see less blue sky in Mai Po now," said Fong Kin-wa, a regular visitor. "But the smog's impact so far is not detrimental to our activities, though it makes our pictures a bit less attractive."
Meanwhile, Mr Tsang, who spoke on a radio show earlier this month about the calming effect of birdwatching, said he would be heading back to Mai Po soon.
July 5th, 2006, 11:22 PM
New Mai Po resident leads exciting experiment
4 July 2006
South China Morning Post
The latest addition to the staff at Mai Po Nature Reserve Centre spends her days eating and swimming, and is assisting in an ecological experiment that could change the way the wetlands are managed.
The as-yet unnamed four-year-old water buffalo was introduced to the reserve as part of an 18-month study during which researchers from WWF Hong Kong, which operates the wetlands, will study changes in the ecosystem in the animal's fenced-off area.
Reserve workers have been using machinery to cut back reeds and grasses, but research has shown the movement of water buffalo can create a better environment for birds. If the experiment proves successful, it will also be regarded as cost-effective as the buffalo's plot will cost little to run and staff can concentrate on other areas of the marsh.
Since her arrival, seven cattle egrets have been spotted in the area, the first time the species has been seen there.
The female buffalo's veterinary treatment is being covered by the Kadoorie Farm and the farm's Alex Grioni comes once a month to check on her.
Three ponds will be studied: one untended, one managed as before and one grazed by the water buffalo.
As the largest resident in her new 1.4 hectare home, it is hoped the buffalo's presence will help diversify the marshland, attracting birds such as cattle egrets, grey-headed lapwings and greater-painted snipe.
It's also hoped that there will be an improvement in dragonfly numbers.
If the project is successful, the buffalo will stay, and the staff will consider bringing in more.
This particular female was chosen for her gentle and easy nature around people and was given to Mai Po by the Sheung Shui Animal Care Centre.
Bena Smith, the WWF Reserve Officer who designed the project, said the water buffalo had frequent interaction with people to keep her tame.
"She is taken for an hour-long walk every day," she said. "If she was wild she'd be able to break down the protective fence."
The team at Mai Po is taking suggestions for naming the water buffalo until the end of the month. E-mails can be sent to email@example.com.
July 21st, 2006, 08:56 PM
11 surprise feathered guests
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Hong Kong Standard
A record number of endangered black- faced spoonbills are summering at the Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong's northwestern corner.
The group of playful young birds, dubbed "Mai Po's 11" by the staff at the reserve, easily breaks the previous record of four birds counted in the summer of 1990.
"And that number amazed everybody," said Bena Smith, a World Wildlife Fund officer who studies the black- faced spoonbill and other birds at the reserve. Last summer there was only one spoonbill at Mai Po.
Black-faced spoonbills - named for the dark, bare skin on their faces and their distinctive spoon-shaped bills - migrate south in the autumn from breeding grounds on the Korean peninsula to winter in Thailand, Vietnam and southern coastal China.
Flocks of 50 or 60 spoonbills begin to arrive in Hong Kong in late October. By early December, up to 300 spoonbills usually set up shop around the old gei wai - shrimp ponds - at Mai Po.
After enjoying the hospitality at the reserve for a few months, the spoonbills begin the trip north to breed and by summer most of the birds are usually gone.
Smith said Mai Po's 11 may have decided to stick around when staff lowered the water level in the gei wai so birds could get at the shrimp and fish more easily. The idea was originally to help the reserve's declining population of egrets.
The staff at Mai Po said their star guests had attracted lots of bird photographers, many of whom never before had the opportunity to see so many spoonbills in summer light.
January 25th, 2007, 07:07 AM
HK called on to lead the way in saving wetlands
Hong Kong Standard
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Conservationists have voiced growing concern over the preservation of Asia's wetlands, encouraging experts to collaborate to tackle some of the challenges currently facing these ecosystems.
"Wetlands are being lost at a faster rate than other places," said Peter Bridgewater, secretary- general of the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, which provides a backbone for international cooperation in wetland conservation.
Speaking at the region's First Wetland Link International Symposium, held at the Hong Kong Wetland Park Wednesday, which has drawn more than one million visitors since its opening last May, Bridgewater said a better balance must be found so that ecosystems can coexist in dense cities like Hong Kong.
"Although it's almost impossible to balance the human needs of society in order to coexist with the rest of nature, it's possible to have a wetland in a city context, such as the creation of artificial wetlands," he said, adding that networking among regional experts and groups is a crucial part of ensuring the conservation of the region's wetlands.
Bridgewater said, if managed effectively, wetland systems can also serve an important role in developing tourism, and he also emphasized the importance of educational programs to replace the common perception that wastelands are infested with insects and organisms.
Hong Kong, being one of the very first places to conserve wetlands in the Asia Pacific region, is moving in the right direction, he said.
Bridgewater also drew attention to global issues from water management to climate change and the interlinking of these issues to better understand and appreciate the wetlands, which serve as water providers, connectors and purifiers.
Conservationists from six Asian countries participated in the symposium which promoted international cooperation and the formation of a "pan-Asian wetland network."
Echoing similar concerns, David Dudgeon, head of the department of ecology and biodiversity at Hong Kong University, claims that with global demand for water on the rise, both the quantity and quality of water left to sustain ecosystems are diminishing.
"Unless we take explicit account of the water needs of wetlands and ensue that an appropriate allocation is made to the environment, then the future of freshwater wetlands - in a world that is getting hotter and in which the demands of a growing human population will increase further - looks pretty bleak," Dudgeon said.
Although wetlands in Hong Kong are fairly well protected considering the extent of development pressures, remaining areas of marshland are unprotected and vulnerable to drainage and development, Dudgeon said.
Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung told the symposium: "The manager of the Wetland Park - the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department - is committed to promoting it as a hub for communication, education, and public awareness activities in the Asia Pacific."
She said the department will continue to collaborate with schools and green groups as well as other relevant government departments to highlight these activities.
"Contrary to the common perception of Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan city, about three-quarters of our land is actually countryside and rural area," Liao said.
She said the territory's unique geographical and climatic environment has contributed to the diverse population of habitats and species to be found here.
January 28th, 2007, 06:36 PM
Care urged on building in wetland buffer zones Any development should be linked to a conservation commitment, says expert
25 January 2007
South China Morning Post
Development in wetland buffer zones should be avoided unless there were compelling reasons and a long-term financial commitment to conservation, the chief of an international body that protects wetlands said in Hong Kong yesterday.
Peter Bridgewater, secretary-general of the Ramsar Convention, who spoke at the First Wetland Link International-Asia Symposium, warned that wetlands were at higher risk than other ecosystems and disappearing at a faster rate.
"We know that everywhere, wetlands are being lost at a rate that seems faster than other ecosystems. Part of the reason is that wetlands are often seen as places for development," Dr Bridgewater said at the first day of the three-day symposium being held at the Hong Kong Wetland Park at Tin Shui Wai.
The convention, signed in 1971 by 154 countries and regions, aims to protect wetlands of international importance. In 1995, Mai Po Nature Reserve in the northwestern New Territories was listed as a Ramsar site, obligating the Hong Kong government to protect it.
The Ramsar chief said although governments could restrict development in wetlands, he believed a total ban was never effective or practical for nature conservation.
He said development and conservation were not necessarily mutually exclusive, particularly if there were measures to preserve or create wetland areas the same size as those lost to development.
"Generally, it is better not to [have development on wetland]," he said, but added that development could be revisited if there were compelling reasons to do so and sufficient long-term conservation measures and financing were committed.
"If you have development in a buffer zone, it is not necessarily a disaster. But such development would have to be very carefully managed."
Dr Bridgewater's comments came as Mutual Luck Investment, a subsidiary of property developer Cheung Kong (Holdings), was about to submit an environmental impact assessment report on its Fung Lok Wai development, half of which lies within the buffer area of the Mai Po Nature Reserve.
Mutual Luck's project aims to preserve 95 per cent of the site and build on only 5 per cent of the 80 hectares, including fish ponds.
The developer has said it will set up a foundation to manage the conserved areas, though it has failed to make a firm commitment on how much it would contribute to the fund. A source for the developer said it had yet to gauge the project's funding requirements as it still needed to acquire the expertise to manage fish ponds.
Earlier, green group Friends of the Earth said the project could open the floodgates to development around Mai Po.
More than a million people have visited the wetland park since its opening in May last year. The government is studying whether management of the park could be outsourced next year.
February 28th, 2007, 03:50 AM
HK bird reserve a sitting duck for Chinese pollution
HONG KONG, Feb 27 (Reuters) - An important nature reserve for migratory birds in Hong Kong is being increasingly polluted by industrial and organic waste flushed down from southern China, a leading green group said on Tuesday.
"The kind of pollution problems we're getting at Mai Po is a common one, right throughout China where you've got this very rapid urbanisation," said Lew Young, manager of the WWF-run Mai Po nature reserve, on the north-western tip of Hong Kong, a stone's throw from the Chinese border city of Shenzhen.
Mai Po and its lush wetlands straddle Shenzhen and Hong Kong and have for decades been an important wintering point for tens of thousands of waterbirds, including critically endangered species such as the black-face spoonbill.
"It's unfortunate that we're stuck in the middle of these very urban areas that will keep urbanising," said Young.
Untreated domestic sewage flushed into Deep Bay along storm drains, livestock waste from pig and chicken farms and industrial pollution from factories in the Pearl River Delta are disrupting the precarious ecological balance in Mai Po.
In 1996, a rumoured breakdown in a Chinese sewage treatment plant choked the bay with untreated effluent, turning Mai Po's mudflats black and sending dissolved oxygen levels close to zero, killing invertebrate species on which waterbirds depend.
"We noticed that all the mudskippers and crabs that are usually found on the mud-flat had completely disappeared," said Young. "Even now, 10 years later, numbers are still only half what they used to be," he added, saying the same disaster could happen again.
Bena Smith, another WWF conservationist at Mai Po said the pollution was reducing ecological diversity.
"We've lost the specialist species and gone over to pollution-tolerant generalist species," said Smith, citing a sharp drop in the numbers of Saunder's Gull since 1996.
While statistics on the total discharge of untreated Chinese waste into Mai Po's surrounding waters are hard to come by, Hong Kong government figures have shown a steady rise in levels of E.coli bacteria, and inorganic nitrogen over the past decade.
"The problem is very serious," said Ma Jun, a leading Chinese environmental campaigner and water pollution expert, who said 52 billion tonnes of mostly untreated waste were discharged into China's rivers each year.
"In the coastal seas and the estuary, the quality of coastal sea water is below category four, meaning the seawater is good for no use," he added.
December 14th, 2007, 04:48 AM
Hong Kong bird reserve closed after H5N1 case
HONG KONG, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A wild heron in Hong Kong has tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus, prompting authorities to close a bird reserve on the border with China on Friday.
Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the grey heron, a migratory species, was found sick on December 5 near the reserve. It later died and tests confirmed it was infected with the H5N1 avian influenza.
"As a precautionary measure, the Mai Po Nature Reserve will be temporarily closed to visitors for 21 days," Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a statement.
"We will monitor the situation closely and review the closure period as necessary," it added.
A 24-year-old Chinese man surnamed Lu from eastern Jiangsu province died last week of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in the first case in China since June.
Chinese state media have warned of a "very high" possibility of bird flu over winter and spring.
Mai Po and its lush wetlands straddling the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, have for decades been an important wintering point for tens of thousands of waterbirds.
December 15th, 2007, 07:59 PM
2,000 hit as Mai Po closes on bird flu fears
Hong Kong Standard
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Up to 2,000 eco-tourists and nature lovers were dealt a blow when it was announced the Mai Po natural reserve would be closed for at least the next three weeks in the wake of the avian flu scare.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department estimated a total of 72 tours, including 34 from schools, scheduled over the period by WWF Hong Kong had to be cancelled.
Even bird watchers with licences issued by the AFCD will be kept outside the sanctuary. Roughly 650 one-time- entry licences were issued this year.
The AFCD said the closure was a precautionary measure after a gray heron found dead last week in San Tin, less than three kilometers from the reserve, had tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Under government guidelines, the restrictions can be lifted if there are no further cases within a 21-day period.
The government has been testing feces samples from Mai Po for bird flu since the winter of 2002.
WWF Mai Po Reserve officer Bena Smith eased fears, saying visitors need to come into direct contact with birds carrying the H5N1 virus to be infected. But he did not think the closure will stop people visiting Mai Po in the future.
An AFCD spokesman said there are no chicken farms within three kilometers of where the dead bird was found.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will step up its checks on live poultry imports as well as on poultry stalls.
Since the winter of 2005, more than 30 wild birds carrying H5N1 virus have been found dead in Hong Kong. Most of these cases have been close to the urban areas around Kowloon.
In Jiangsu province a 24-year-old died from avian flu on December 2. His 52-year-old father was confirmed a few days later to have also contracted H5N1 virus and is now in a stable condition.
How the virus was transmitted in their case remains unknown.
An Indonesian man died of bird flu in Jakarta on Thursday, bringing the nation's toll to 93.
February 9th, 2008, 06:27 AM
Hong Kong reserve closed on suspected bird flu case
HONG KONG, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Hong Kong shut a bird reserve for three weeks on Wednesday following the discovery of a dead wild egret suspected of carrying bird flu.
The carcass of a wild great egret was found on Saturday in northern Yuen Long, near the Mai Po Nature Reserve which has been closed to the public as a precautionary measure.
It was being treated as a "suspected case" of H5 avian flu, with further tests being carried out.
"We will monitor the situation closely and review the closure period as necessary," said a spokesman for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
The same reserve was closed in December for a similar period after a bird tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus.
Experts fear the H5N1 strain, which remains mainly an animal disease but has infected humans, could mutate to a form that spreads easily among people.
Aviaries at a popular Hong Kong theme park, Ocean Park, were closed this month after the discovery of a wild heron suspected of dying from bird flu.
February 27th, 2008, 08:33 AM
Bird park demands compensation over `unfair' closure orders
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Mai Po Nature Reserve will reopen today but its operator wants HK$800,000 as compensation for following the government's closure order.
World Wildlife Fund's reserve manager Lew Young yesterday described the government's closure orders as unfair and selective.
The nature reserve was closed for the past three weeks following the discovery of an H5N1 infected great egret outside its area on February 6.
Young is trying to have the government review its protocols for the discovery of birds infected with avian flu, saying the government had selectively targeted the nature reserve in response to virus-infected birds.
Pointing out that an H5N1 infected bird had yet to be found in the wetland reserve, he said the government's mandated 21-day closure was not applied to other districts such as Sham Shui Po where some 62 percent of dead birds infected with avian flu were found in the past two years.
"We need guidelines that are appropriate and can be used across the board," Young said, adding the reserve should not be closed if an H5N1 infected bird was found outside its area.
He also said there was no correlation between the movement of migratory wild birds and the finding of infected birds.
The government guidelines, drawn up after the second of four closures, specify that a control area with a three- kilometer radius be established where an H5N1 infected bird is found to monitor and prevent the movement of sick wild birds and poultry. The government's guidelines were originally intended for poultry farms, Young said.
Despite their own protocols, the government had allowed three poultry farms to continue to operate after a dead H5N1 infected grey heron was found nearby in San Tin on February 10.
"The policy is entirely inconsistent because the three-kilometer radius around the reserve also includes many villages that remained open. It is ridiculous that this rule only applies to Mai Po," said medical-sector lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.
Meanwhile, China confirmed its fourth outbreak of avian flu among poultry this year.
The Ministry of Agriculture said on its website that the outbreak had been effectively contained with the slaughter of nearly 240,000 poultry after 4,000 were killed by the virus in Guizhou province.
Of the 43 H5N1 infected birds discovered locally over the past two years, 40 percent were species related to the pet trade, while 23 percent were chickens, herons and egrets.
March 2nd, 2008, 05:50 AM
Hooked lines threaten Mai Po spoonbills
Hong Kong Standard
Friday, February 29, 2008
Hooks on fishing lines strung over fish ponds have maimed or killed several black-faced spoonbills in Hong Kong, according to WWF Hong Kong.
Nearly a quarter of the world's 1,700 surviving black-faced spoonbills spend the winter months in the Mai Po Nature Reserve, but the primitive method of protecting fishing stocks has also ensnared and trapped other wild birds such as cormorants frequenting the Australasia flyway, said the WWF. "It's illegal and the government patrols areas out in Deep Bay. But it's a tricky subject to address. Most ponds are remote and they aren't accessible by car or bike so it all has to be done on foot, which is quite labor intensive," said nature reserve officer Bena Smith.
"This practice is clearly designed to kill or catch birds rather than scare them away from the fish ponds," Hong Kong Bird Watching Society vice chairman Mike Kilburn said.
According to an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spokeswoman, one bird is usually found entangled or dead in hooked fishing lines every year.
Yesterday, a six-month-old spoonbill was reintroduced into the wild at the reserve. It was found entangled in fishing wire after ingesting a 5 centimeter barbed hook on January 10.
The hook was removed in a three-hour operation at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.
June 10th, 2008, 10:57 AM
Mai Po wetland reserve faces precarious future, departing manager warns
10 June 2008
South China Morning Post
Hong Kong's top wetland reserve might disappear without strong management in the face of various threats to its survival, the reserve's outgoing manager says.
Lew Young, who has worked at the reserve for 17 years, said it was still under threat from exotic flora and fauna species, rising mudflat levels due to excessive sediment deposits, water pollution and neighbouring development.
"If the community does not take an active role to identify the problems facing the reserve, and find the right solutions, it might some day be gone," Dr Young said, admitting there were questions about the ecological value of the reserve.
Dr Young said the Mai Po reserve's management plan had not been updated since 1997, despite new and continuing challenges.
He said WWF, the global conservation body entrusted by the government to help run the reserve, would soon conduct a study to work out a strategy to better protect the 1,000-hectare wetland and its buffer areas, mostly fishponds.
Fish farmers, green groups, officials and developers would be invited to join the study.
Dr Young said the role of developers could no longer be ignored because they owned the fishponds and were the ones who would draw up development plans.
"In the past, we fought against the developers and sought help from media," he said. "Now we prefer to talk to them about sustainable development.
"There is a limit to what you can expect the government can do. If there is no hope that it can help, then mere opposition might do very little."
Dr Young said the Nam Sang Wai controversy in the early 1990s, when green groups fought hard but unsuccessfully against a development plan by Henderson Land, had proved a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the controversy led to clear rules for wetland protection, but it also set a precedent for more development around the reserve. He said it was encouraging that more developers were willing to minimise their construction footprints.
But the developers should take a more holistic view in their conservation efforts, instead of just focusing on their own projects, he said.
Dr Young is moving to the Geneva-based Ramsar Convention Secretariat as senior adviser for Asia and Oceania, to oversee wetlands in the region.
Ramsar is an international convention, signed by 158 countries, pledging to protect important wetland areas.
July 24th, 2008, 02:43 PM
August 13th, 2008, 11:24 AM
Boost for housing project near reserve
9 August 2008
South China Morning Post
Property developer Cheung Kong has overcome another hurdle in realising its plans to build residential housing among fish ponds in Yuen Long, after the government allowed its environmental report to be put up for public comment yesterday.
The Fung Lok Wai project seeks to develop only 5 per cent of an 80-hectare site near the Mai Po reserve. The remaining area will be turned into a wetland nature reserve comprising fish ponds and marshes to be run by an independent body.
The permission to release the environmental impact assessment report of the building plan to the public was a boost to the property developer, which had been struggling to win support from sceptics over the feasibility of its plans.
The developer won Town Planning Board principle support to its plan in 1999. But since 2000, the Environmental Protection Department has not given the nod to the suitability of the report for public inspection.
According to the latest report submitted by Mutual Luck Investment, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong, the development was to be completed by 2016. One of the options was to have the maximum height lowered from 24 storeys to 18, though the number of blocks was increased slightly to cover the loss. The report said the layout would have minimal impact on birds.
The developer also pledged to set up a non-profit foundation to oversee the reserve, to be managed by professionals.
It hoped the running costs could be partially covered by fish sales integrated with conservation measures to maintain the ponds' ecological value and attractiveness to birds.
Cheng Luk-ki, from Green Power, said there was an inherent conflict in the conservation project cum commercial fish pond operation.
"Can farmers kick away the birds preying on the fish at the ponds to protect the reserve's revenue? If not, how can they maintain a stable income to finance their operation?" he said.
The report is available on the website of the Environmental Protection Department and the inspection and comment period will end on September 3. The department would then consider whether or not to approve the report.
August 25th, 2008, 03:01 PM
By kctony from dchome :
September 22nd, 2008, 07:28 AM
Advisers voice fears over Mai Po project
Cheung Kong plan sparks health concerns
19 September 2008
South China Morning Post
Public health and the impact on the landscape are among the concerns of a government advisory body over a plan by Cheung Kong (Holdings) to build homes around fish ponds and marshes near one of the city's most sensitive wildlife spots.
Plans for the Fung Lok Wai project in Yuen Long call for the development of only 5 per cent of the 80-hectare site near Mai Po Nature Reserve, famed for its bird life. The remaining area will be turned into a wetland nature reserve by the developer to be run by an independent body.
But critics say the planned blocks are five or six times the height of the usual three-storey New Territories houses and worry about possible risks in an avian flu outbreak.
An environmental impact assessment report, released for public comment last month, was seen as helping the property developer to win support from sceptics about the feasibility of its plans.
The report came under discussion yesterday by a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment, which will advise the director of environmental protection on whether the project should go ahead.
Subcommittee member Edwin Lau Che-feng said the project was too close to the birds' habitat. "The government as a precautionary measure ordered closure of the Mai Po reserve during the bird flu outbreak last year," he said. "Is the government prepared to evacuate the residents in the project if bird flu hits the city?"
Mr Lau, also director of green group Friends of the Earth, said the project was "incompatible" with the landscape and scenery of the habitat.
Subcommittee chairman Ng Cho-nam said he would report members' advice to the council at a meeting scheduled next month and urged the government to monitor the management and financial support of the planned wetland nature reserve.
The developer has pledged to set up a non-profit foundation to oversee the reserve, which would be managed by professionals.
Mutual Luck Investment, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong, said yesterday it was "committed to the financial requirements of the setting up and the operation of the wetland nature reserve". A sum of HK$4 million would be injected every year for the operation of the reserve before the foundation was established, which would take about three years.
"WWF Hong Kong will participate and monitor the design, construction and operation of the reserve and will train up staff for the future management," the company said.
Janet Lee Ka-wai, conservation officer of WWF's Mai Po projects, said WWF planned to revive the abandoned fish ponds in the area and fishermen would be employed to resurrect the old practices.
Grace Woo Chia-ching, executive director of Cheung Kong Holdings, said she was confident the development would be completed in 2016.
Rich Valley has also proposed building 21 houses and a clubhouse in the wetland buffer area near Mai Po. That plan is due to be discussed by the Town Planning Board today.
November 5th, 2008, 04:27 PM
By m@tt from a Hong Kong photography forum :
February 19th, 2009, 07:10 PM
August 10th, 2009, 06:45 PM
Mai Po buffalo gets a companionto help keep the grass in check
10 August 2009
South China Morning Post
A second buffalo has been introduced to Mai Po Nature Reserve to help keep the grass under control and attract birds. Since the first one was introduced three years ago, the wetland park has saved HK$40,000 a year in site management costs.
The conservation body WWF said the second phase of the Buffalo Wetland Management Research Project would show the animals could help create an attractive habitat for waterbirds as well as reduce costs.
Bena Smith, WWF Hong Kong Mai Po reserve manager, said: "It costs about HK$40,000 a year in managing each freshwater pond in the reserve area, while grazing saves the cost of hiring workers and purchasing equipment to cut the grass."
In co-operation with the Lantau Bovine Association, the new, six-year-old buffalo has been kept with the original buffalo, named Siu Mai, which is also six years old, within a 1.8 hectare freshwater habitat since July 29.
"Buffaloes can be beneficial in attracting more locally declining waterbird species such as the greater painted snipe, grey-headed lapwing and cattle egret," Mr Smith said.
Insects the buffaloes attracted were a major food source for waterbirds and the marsh created by the bovines' trampling provided a habitat for the birds, he said.
The organisation started the research project in 2006 by introducing Siu Mai, a female Asian water buffalo, into the reserve to investigate how the animals influenced wildlife and to test the efficiency of buffalo wetland management.
"According to the results of initial studies, the mean bird diversity per hectare in grazed areas is 16.9, compared with 19.3 and 9.5 in managed and unmanaged areas, respectively," Mr Smith said.
"We also discovered about four cattle egrets within the site after the arrival of Siu Mai."
Though Siu Mai had kept the grass down to a height of about 20cm, results in the winter had not been as good as the organisation expected.
"By adding a new buffalo, we are hoping to keep the grass height at 10cm, especially in the winter, to benefit ducks," he said.
The project will be completed by the end of next year. "We will cease grazing if the result is negative, otherwise we will expand the grazing into other freshwater ponds and start phase three of the research project."
The public is invited to take part in a naming competition for the new member of the Mai Po team and can make online submissions until August 24. The winner will be given a chance to visit the buffaloes.
December 30th, 2010, 03:40 AM
Duck back after epic flight to Siberia
27 December 2010
South China Morning Post
A wild duck fitted with a transmitter last December made it back home on Christmas Day, to the delight of conservationists working on the project.
The duck is the only one of 23 from Hong Kong tagged with the device to have returned to Mai Po.
Its return will help ecologists understand the role of migratory birds and how they can be conserved by showing for the first time the bird's complete migration.
Officers at the Mai Po Nature Reserve were surprised when the northern pintail, numbered 91268, appeared on Christmas Day.
The ducks were fitted with a 20-gram solar-powered transmitter at Mai Po on December 9 last year.
The tracker shows that the bird left Deep Bay, off Lau Fau Shan, in February and took about five months to reach the Arctic Circle in June. During the northern migration it stopped in places including Jiangsu province, the Yellow Sea in South Korea, Heilongjiang province, the Amur estuary in eastern Russia and Siberia. It stayed in Siberia and bred for three months before heading south at the end of September. From there it flew at least 1,700 kilometres in three days - at about 50km/h - stopping in Russia and Japan before reaching Guangzhou this month. The cold front pushed it further south and prompted its return home after covering more than 6,000 kilometres.
The duck is expected to set off on another migration soon.
Of the other transmitters fitted to the ducks at Mai Po, only two are sending signals to the tracker. Others might either have fallen off or did not get enough sunlight, or the ducks could have been hunted. Another duck, a Eurasian wigeon, appears to have settled in North Korea as it has spent over a month in different places there.
Using funding from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, WWF Hong Kong collaborated with the University of Hong Kong's microbiology department, Asia Ecological Consultants and the US Geological Survey on the project.
Katherine Leung, WWF Hong Kong's reserve officer, said the project provided insight into links between breeding and non-breeding areas. "During migration, ducks face many threats, like natural predators, hunters and diseases. Another worrying trend is development projects, including reclamation, which results possibly in habitat loss for them and other waterbirds," she said. "Their migration route will help us protect them better in the future."
December 31st, 2010, 07:22 PM
By katychan228 from a Hong Kong discussion forum :