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Web resources for the biodiversity and ecology of animals
Introducing the Swire Institute of Marine Science Museum-a resource that may be useful for your research!
New locality records species of conservation concern
Society of Conservation Biology 16th Annual Meeting at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. 14th-19th July 2002
Watching wildlife in Panamá
My trip to the South American rainforest
The most accessible rainforest in the world?
Trekking in the Peruvian Andes

Society of Conservation Biology 16th Annual Meeting at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. 14th – 19th July 2002

by Billy Hau

I attended this meeting with Dr. John Fellowes, who got his Ph.D. from our Department several years ago, and presented a paper on biodiversity monitoring and nature reserve management in South China. There were nearly 1,200 participants from over 50 disciplines and more than 60 countries in this Meeting. I would like to share with Porcupine! readers my observations in this meeting about the problems and opportunities of conservation biology.

As pointed out by John Lawton of the Natural Environment Council of UK, the threats to global biodiversity continue to grow despite the impressive scientific advances in conservation biology in the last two decades. Something clearly has gone wrong. Amongst the papers presented (>500) at the meeting, many suggested that researchers and conservationists often focused too much on biodiversity and the science of it and overlooked the importance and complication of the role of humans i.e. local communities, in field conservation projects. It was suggested that the future direction for improvement in biodiversity conservation projects was to involve or work with community aid specialists. Certainly more recent projects presented in the meeting have already started to reconcile community development with biodiversity conservation. The South China Biodiversity Conservation Programme of the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden here in Hong Kong is also developing towards this direction. Only when there is spare time, John Lawton suggests, there is still a lot of science to do.

Due to the project-based funding mode, both in universities and for international or local funds, conservation projects often involve sending foreign experts to work in the field sites, mostly in the developing countries, for a short period of time (3 to 5 years or less). Most such projects fell apart after the expert team had gone. On the other hand, many smaller groups have found it difficult to implement their field projects as the budget is too small to cover the costs of a team of foreign experts while there are few or no local experts available. Many conservation organisations have included capacity building as an integral part of their field projects. However, there is still a general consensus amongst the participants that local field biologists are highly insufficient, especially in developing countries.

As one of the countries with the richest biodiversity of all, China was heavily under-represented in this international meeting in comparison with other places such as Madagascar, North America and Europe. Only a handful of papers, including our one, are about China. The Society of Conservation Biology is now organising an Asia Section (for details, see recent issues of the SCB newsletter at ( which would hopefully draw more mainland researchers into the international arena of conservation biology.

The final point I would like to make is about field sites. It is very common for universities in Europe and North America to have research students working in biodiversity rich countries especially in the developing world. Comparatively, our Department’s postgraduate projects focus more in Hong Kong (I know there are exceptions). Being a university in China, perhaps we should build on our solid foundation in Hong Kong and explore more opportunities to develop field research projects in China.


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