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"In the News" (pdf)

by Jacqueline Weir, Gloria Chau and Sukh Mantel

Reuters News Service can be accessed at www.planetark.org. Please note the omission of Jacqueline Weir’s name as co-author of ‘In the News’ in Porcupine! 26.

Hong Kong News

Wind power plants may appear in Hong Kong in the future. The Hong Kong Observatory has identified six sites where wind speed would be suitable for generating electricity. These include Cheung Chau and Tai Mo Shan. A report by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department on the potential of renewable energy in Hong Kong will be made public within this year. (Oriental Daily 9.9.02)

The landfill area in Junk Bay is proposed as a site for a new park for leisure and educational purposes. The main theme would be ‘love animals, study plants’. Kwun Tong district office has agreed in principal to the proposal. (Oriental Daily 9.9.02)

Environmentalists from Green Power are calling for tighter controls on development after a controversial golf course built on breeding grounds of an endemic fish has never been used. The golf course in Sham Chung near Sai Kung Country Park was developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties. Over 200 endemic black paradise fish, Macropodus hongkongensis, had to be rescued from the site. (SCMP 15.9.02; see Porcupine! 19: 1, 28-30 for articles on Sham Chung being destroyed)

CLP Power and Hong Kong Electric are being urged by the Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works to join Mainland China in its emerging ‘emissions trading’ market. Emissions trading treats pollution as a commodity to be bought and sold by companies. Strict limits are imposed on pollutant levels and emission reductions are given monetary value. Credits are given to a company that achieves reductions, and these can be traded with companies that do not meet the targets. This may help to reduce overall pollution, but has been criticised for allowing rich companies to pollute. Barriers to Hong Kong’s participation may include differences from the mainland markets and in environmental standards, as well as different approaches to enforcement. (SCMP 30.9.02)

The Singapore based environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is to follow up its previous shock tactics against consumption of shark fins. Post cards were recently distributed in various countries including Hong Kong, depicting a wedding party spattered in blood from butchered sharks. The new post cards, as well as posters in public areas, will focus on the high mercury levels found recently in people who had consumed shark fin. (Reuters News Service 11.10.02)

China will propose regulating trade in endangered animals protected under CITES. Out of the 54 proposals for banning or regulating trade at the CITES meeting in Santiago, Chile, eleven will be proposed by China for regulating trade in turtles. This is encouraging news since China is the largest importer and consumer of turtles. In 2001, Hong Kong imported approximately 8.69 million kg of live turtles (mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia), which is approximately 18 times greater than in 1992. A spokesperson for AFCD refused to comment on the HK government’s position on the proposals. According to Dr. Michael Lau of KFBG, depletion of mainland stocks of turtles was leading to turtle supplies increasingly coming from Southeast Asia and this was leading to lowered number of turtles in these areas. Another species being discussed at the CITES meeting will be the humphead wrasse whose population has decreased by approximately 20% in the past decade. (SCMP 3.11.02; see CITES CoP12 story under ‘International News’)

Illegal ivory sales and smuggling have increased dramatically, with Hong Kong implicated as playing a major role. A 6.2 tonne haul of illegal African ivory was seized in Singapore in June, with links to a Hong Kong-registered company. A recent report by the Environmental Investigation Agency blames a Hong Kong based network of ivory dealers for numerous shipments since the 1990s. Demand for ivory in China is high, with Guangzhou a centre of illicit trade there. Following recent approval by CITES for a one-off sale of southern African ivory stock-piles, China is to carry out a nation-wide audit of its existing ivory stocks to help crack down on illegal trade. Increasing demand in the region has been blamed partly on a one-off legal sale to Japan in 1997. (Reuters News Service 7.10.02; SCMP 10.11.02, 17.11.02)

An endangered Green Turtle has been satellite tracked migrating from its breeding ground in Sham Wan, Lamma Island, to feeding grounds off Hainan. Sham Wan is the only remaining turtle breeding ground in Hong Kong, and is protected by law. AFCD also helped mainland counterparts track three green turtles last year, from Gangkou National Nature Reserve, Guangdong, to Hainan Island and Okinawa, Japan. (SCMP 10.11.02)

An attempt to smuggle around 600 live cobras through Hong Kong to Mainland China ended in the death of one smuggler. The endangered snakes were being transported from South East Asia to the mainland for consumption. During a marine police chase cobras were thrown at police. The police vessel and the smuggler’s boat collided and one smuggler died from internal bleeding. (Reuters News Service 18.11.02)

Ma On Shan district office is thinking of making deer the symbol for their district. At least ten deer can be observed there at night, close to the iron quarry. They are also looking into the possibility of captive breeding the deer. (Oriental Daily 29.11.02)

A study by the AFCD has documented rich animal and plant diversity in Tai Tam Country Park, including barking deer, wild boar and Chinese leopard cat. Twenty percent of the 540 man-made ‘bird holes’ there are now occupied by birds, and AFCD is planning larger ones for owls. (Apple Daily 1.12.02)

South African abalone is being massively poached by gangs controlled by Hong Kong triads. Once plentiful along the coast near Cape Town, abalone is now on the brink of extinction. Coastal areas where the shellfish is found have been taken over by poachers who intimidate locals and tourists. The illicit money this has brought is fuelling drugs trade and crime there. Triads branched into abalone smuggling due to lower competition, having previously smuggled poached shark fins. (SCMP 1.12.02)

China News

IUCN’s 2002 Red List of Threatened Species lists 26 animal and 30 plant species from China that are close to extinction, thus ranking it among the top countries with most threatened mammals and birds. One animal of concern is the wild Bactrian camel with only 600 animals left in Xinjian and Mongolia. Chinese experts went further and said the report underestimated the number of threatened species, which might be approximately 2000. Dr. Wang Song (China Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology) stated that the use of species in food and traditional medicine was the problem, and the solution: "We have got to control our mouths and stop eating everything and anything." (SCMP 9.10.02)

The state media of China stated that geological disasters in the area around China’s Three Gorges dam could result as the 600 km reservoir fills. Cracks have appeared in the dam according to a senior Chinese official. However Guo Shuyan, director of the cabinet’s Three Gorges Construction Committee stated that the dam is "absolutely safe". More than 646,000 out of 1.13 million people have already been relocated. (Reuters News Service 12.9.02)

Professor David Chen Yong-qin from Chinese University, Hong Kong, doubts that mainland efforts to reduce water shortages will be effective in the short term. Particularly artificial rainfall and the North-to-South Water Diversion Project which will move water from the Yangtze River region to the Yellow River Region. Western China faces serious water shortage due to its natural climate, a poor water-allocation policy and over-use of groundwater. (SCMP 29.11.02)

Nine thousand bears are being farmed for bile in China, an increase of 28% in the past 3 years, according to mainland officials. This is despite no new licenses being issued and a decrease in the number of farms from 247 to 167. (SCMP 29.11.02; see CITES CoP12 story under ‘International News’)

International News

Forty seven percent of world’s plant species are threatened with extinction according to an article in the November issue of Science. This is much higher than previous estimates of 13% because of inclusion of tropical species. (Reuters News Service 4.11.02)

Summary of reports on CITES Twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP-12) from 3-15 November in Santiago, Chile (Reuters News Service 15.11.02, 18.11.02 and www.cites.org):

  • Proposal on restricting trade in basking and whale sharks, hunted for their meat, liver oil (whale shark) and fins for making shark’s fin soup, was approved by inclusion of the species in Appendix II. Humans kill approximately 100 million sharks and rays each year, some as by-catches in nets.

  • Sea horses (all 32 species) often used in aquaria, for curios and in traditional Chinese medicine, were included in Appendix II, thus requiring cross-border trade to be monitored. The largest markets for dried sea horses are China and Hong Kong. In the early 1990s at least 20 million seahorses were captured annually from the wild and the trade is growing by 8-10% per year.
  • Twenty-six species of Asian turtles were included in Appendix II. They are hunted for the pet trade, Asian traditional medicine and food.

  • Steps taken to reduce illegal trade in bear bile and other bear parts need to be reported by the countries involved by next year.
  • Botswana, Namibia and South Africa will be allowed a one-off sale of their ivory stockpiles after a 13-year ban after checking by the Secretariat for increased poaching (as feared by environmentalists) or illegal trade during the next 1.5 year.
  • Humphead wrasse, a coral reef fish that is vulnerable to fishing because of its slow growth, late maturation and low numbers, was proposed for Appendix II but was narrowly rejected. Hong Kong is one of the major importers of this fish.


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