Episode IV - A New Hope


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"In the News" (pdf)

By Jacqueline Weir, Sukh Mantel and Jasmine Ng

Hong Kong News
China News
International News


Greenpeace has objected to plans for processing contaminated soil from the Disneyland project at the Tsing Yi incinerator. The soil contains dioxins and may pose a health and environmental risk. (SCMP 30.7.03)

Dolphin watching trips in Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Tan Marine Parks have been breaking regulations and causing disturbance to dolphin groups. Numbers of tour operators have increased, with the number of boats present peaking during the SARS outbreak. (SCMP 3.8.03)

A Chinese white dolphin was being held at Ocean Park after it was stranded on a beach in Yan Chau Tong Marine Park, Sai Kung. This was the first time one of the animals had been found stranded live in Hong Kong. The animal had skin infections and possibly also a lung problem. (SCMP 10.8.03)

Poultry traders have rejected all options proposed by the bird flu task force ‘Team Clean’ to prevent avian flu, and called for a top-level committee to be set up to work out details, before any action is taken. (SCMP 17.8.03)

Although claimed to meet the Environmental Protection Department’s discharge quality standards, untreated sewage resulting from a pipe blockage, and a missing end cover, was found pumping directly into the Victoria Harbour. (SCMP 8.9.03)

Friends of the Earth sought recycling of mooncake tins, of which 3 million are dumped in landfills each year, and packaging, which could reach 21 items of paper and plastic per tin. (SCMP 9.9.03)

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong gave fresh evidence linking the SARS coronavirus to civets and racoon dogs from Guangdong’s wet markets, but stopped short of calling for a ban on wild animal trading, as the findings did not confirm that the virus found in civets directly caused the SARS outbreak. A top mainland health official speaking after the opening of the 54th session of the World Health Organisation’s regional committee for the Western Pacific said that it was too early to say whether eating civets should be banned. (SCMP 9.9.03)

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department was considering banning the use of natural seawater by live-fish wholesale markets and restaurants. Artificial seawater should be used instead to minimize the risk of cholera outbreak in the region. A new licensing system would also be in effect for all fish wholesalers, whether or not they are selling live or chilled fish. (SCMP 19.9.03)

The historical Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden was planning to include new species, for example sea otter, Romer’s tree frog, Hong Kong newt, etc., and other endangered species for display and educational purposes. (Oriental Daily 19.9.03)

Eggs of Aedes albopictus, the dengue-spreading mosquito, topped a breeding detection rate of 7.7 percent, exceeding the WHO standard of 5 percent and putting Hong Kong at "high-risk" for dengue fever transmission. (SCMP 20.9.03)

An ageing female Chinese White Dolphin found dead off Tsuen Wan coastal area. This 20-year-old dolphin was valuable for full-skeleton preservation and research purposes. (Oriental Daily 20.9.03)

Hot summer and flooding in Shanghai lakes were believed to be responsible for smaller but more expensive Chinese mitten crabs out in the market last autumn. (SCMP 22.9.03)

Exotic seafood and snakes, in addition to hi-tech equipment, are the hottest items to be smuggled to the mainland via Hong Kong's open-waters. Hong Kong police and customs are co-operating in sharing of intelligence and deployment of officers to curb the trade. (SCMP 26.9.03)

The demand for live seafood in Hong Kong and southern China, worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is leading to the extinction of reef fishes and the decimation of coral reefs in Southeast Asia. Fish are stunned using sodium cyanide, a practice that although illegal in Philippines is hard to police. Corals and algae that come in contact with cyanide are killed. Approximately 20,000 tonnes of live reef fish caught in Southeast Asia is eaten each year in Hong Kong, and for each fish that is caught using cyanide approximately 1-m2 of reef is destroyed, according to International Marinelife Alliance in Manila. (SCMP 26.9.03)

Fig.1 Large humphead wrasse are often caught with cyanide. This one was on sale in Shexnzhen. (Photo: Liu Min)

Green Power urged the regulation of hidden ingredients in pesticide sprays and mosquito repellents from the government. Ten of the unlisted volatile organic compounds found in these household pesticides are subjects of concern by the USEPA and two of the ten, toluene and methylene chloride, are suspected to be potentially carcinogenic on animals and cause undesirable effects on human pregnancy. (SCMP 02.10.03)

Despite preservation concern, wild water buffalo in Lantau Island resulted in complaints from villagers for creating nuisance and might be destroyed if no permanent home for them can be found (SCMP 13.10.03)

A wild boar was seen fleeing in Tai Po, dodging into the Tolo Harbour and swimming for 400 m. It was finally captured by the AFCD after getting trapped by a sidewalk fence. (Ming Pao 13.10.03)

Hoi Ha Wan beach in Sai Kung Country Park is to be cordoned off from speedboats that have been disturbing the marine park, allegedly destroying coral and putting swimmers at risk. Tai Po District Council and AFCD pledged that a barrier of buoys would be erected. The beach attracts up to 3 000 visitors per day at weekends. (SCMP 13.10.03)

Professor Brian Morton called for protection of the marine environment in Hong Kong to be increased. Reclamation, development and pollution as well as exploitation of marine life have had devastating effects since he arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1970s. Despite the establishment of marine parks and a marine reserve, only 24.8 hectares of Hong Kong’s sea area are protected compared with 40 000 hectares of its land area. (SCMP 13.10.03)

Two tonnes of ivory worth $2.7 million was seized from a container from Tanzania, Africa on its arrival in Hong Kong. This is largest seizure ever in Hong Kong. The ivory was supposedly intended for the mainland, which has the highest worldwide demand for ivory. (SCMP 15.10.03)

Increased dolphin-watching was blamed for the high number of dead dolphins recorded (14; double that of 2002) off Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau. Samuel Hung emphasized that such a number might also be related to ageing, pollution, by-catch and reclamation, etc. (Apple Daily 18.10.03)

Since 1996, the Artificial Reef (AR) project by Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has increased in fish diversity from 40 species to 220 species to date. In October 2003 the Department finished the 2nd phase of the AR project. (Apple Daily 26.10.03)

Spokesman from the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong declared that the $61 million Hong Kong’s first and only marine life centre at Hoi Ha Wan would open in mid 2004 even if no more funding could be raised. In this "phased" opening the basic facilities would be opened first; other features, including the aquarium and a touch pool, would be built at a later stage. (SCMP 27.10.03)

China’s first spaceman was greeted by smog and pollution readings exceeding 100, the threshold at which people with breathing difficulties are advised to not go outside. The Hong Kong Observatory said that the smog was one of the worst in the past few years. (SCMP 3.11.03)

A 1.2 m long crocodile was found sunbathing in the brackish swamp of Nam Sang Wai, Yuen Long. AFCD experts tried netting and caging to capture the crocodile but to no avail. (Apple Daily 4.11.03)

A proposed free-trade zone east of the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint was contaminated with thousands of tones of toxic soil containing organic compounds and heavy metals. Green groups expected that hundreds of millions of dollars would be needed to remove such toxic soil. (SCMP 6.11.03)

Jade perch, which is believed to be cheap to raise, tastes good and beneficial to the heart, would be available in the local market. This introduced species from Australia would be popular with local fish farmers, and hopefully would help revive the local market. (SCMP 10.11.03)

Environmentalists feared that the Hong Kong-Shenzhen free-trade zone would hinder the development of a "new wetland habitat suitable for wildlife" at the abandoned river channel. (SCMP 13.11.03)

A two-year-old Indian muntjac was "scared to death" when captured by AFCD officers in Sai Kung Highway. (Apple Daily 15.11.03)

Two thousand chickens that were carrying the H5 bird-flu virus were returned to the mainland, according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. During the past two years, 10,000 infected chickens have gone through the same routine. (SCMP 15.11.03)

Two short-clawed otter hit Ocean Park, serving as new attraction that boosts the educational atmosphere in the Park. (Apple Daily 27.12.03)

Ocean Park’s Dolphin Encounter attraction has raised concerns by conservationists about safety, animal stress, possible disease transmission and the mercenary use of the marine mammals. Animal protectionists, however, thought that this activity raised public awareness towards the threats to this animal. (SCMP 2.1.04)

262 black-faced spoonbills were recorded in Mai Po by the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, which was the highest since 1992. (Oriental Daily 3.1.04)

The secretary for the environment, transport and works Dr. Sarah Liao Sau-tung has vowed to seek prosecution of those responsible for devastating a section of the Tung Chung river on Lantau island. Removal of 400 tonnes of boulders and pebbles from the site was ordered illegally by the Tung Chung Rural Committee, supposedly for flood protection, and a village contractor was hired for the work. Dr. Alan Leung Sze-lun of World Wide Fund for Nature stated that the priority in restoring the river should be its capacity to maintain river life. A meeting is being held between the government and green groups to discuss its restoration. Dr. Bosco Chan Pui-lok, river ecology expert of Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden asked why ecology academics were not invited to the meeting. (SCMP 11.12.03, 15.12.03, 5.01.04, 13.01.04)


Cathay and Hope, two young South China tiger cubs from Shanghai’s zoo, flew to Johannesburg as part of a conservation program organized by the Save China’s Tiger conservation foundation. They will be returned to China in 2008 by when a pilot nature reserve is expected to be ready. There are fewer than 100 South China tigers alive today. Gail Cochrane of Animals Asia Foundation however expressed reservations about the program since the animals might find it hard to adapt to different environmental and weather conditions. (SCMP 2.9.03)

The Qinghai-Tibet plateau, which is rich in wildlife and natural resources like timber and gas, is under threat of environmental degradation by the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet rail line and by the melting of glaciers due to global warming. Scientists are asking the government and the public to support protection of the region for the future. (SCMP 22.10.03)

The Chinese government is being urged to shut down electricity production by the Sanmen Gorge Dam on the Yellow river to prevent future flooding problems. The request came from Zhang Guangdou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Qian Zhengying, the former minister of water resources. Besides heavy sedimentation, overuse and pollution of the Yellow river are also problematic, according to the International Water Management Institute and the Yellow River Conservancy Commission. (SCMP 22.10.03, 3.11.03)

The Ministry of Education, in co-operation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has issued guidelines to make environmental education compulsory for mainland schools. The program will emphasize environmental knowledge and also develop students’ attitudes and values of environmental protection. The implementation of these guidelines by local and provincial governments and schools will be the crucial test to the success of the program. (SCMP 3.11.03)

Three hundred thousand fishermen are expected to lose their jobs since the Chinese government wants to reduce fishing effort so that offshore fishery resources can be preserved. This is equivalent to 30,000 fishing vessels, 14% of China’s fishing fleet. Fishermen will be paid 15,000 yuan for each fishing vessel that goes out of business and they will be helped with alternative livelihood including aquaculture. (Terradaily 28.11.03) (www.terradaily.com)


Five Hong Kong sampans and one Vietnamese fishing boat were intercepted by Philippine naval authorities near the Spratly Islands. They were carrying explosives and sodium cyanide. The Spratlys are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. (SCMP 19.8.03)

The World Health Organisation has warned that Asia’s cities will suffer badly unless air and water pollution are cut dramatically. One and a half million people in Asia die annually from pollution related diseases and 1.5 billion people face air pollution above maximum recommended limits, while cities are expanding too quickly to cope. (SCMP 15.10.03)

Authorities in India are fighting against the imminent flowering of huge bamboo plantations in the north east of the country. In the 1950s a famine caused by bamboo flowering – which occurs every 10 to 100 years – triggered a long-lasting separatist rebellion there. After flowering bamboo can cover the land with rotting plants preventing vegetation growth and increase the numbers of pests such as rats. Plans are to harvest 25 million tonnes of bamboo and build rat-proof storage for grain. (SCMP 20.10.03)

Wildfires in southern California caused a state of emergency to be declared and claimed 15 lives. Some fires may have been caused by arson. Dry weather and dead trees caused by a plague of bark beetles made vegetation vulnerable, while strong wind fanned the flames and prevented air drops of retardant and the use of control fires. Eventually cool moist weather allowed the biggest fires to be largely contained. (SCMP 28.10.03, 29.10.03, 3.11.03)

Floods in Thailand have damaged tens of thousands of hectares of crops. The floods, triggered by monsoon rains, were the worst there in decades. (SCMP 29.10.03)

Evidence points strongly to a population of ‘big cats’ – such as pumas or panthers – existing in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. The animals may have escaped or been released, and there have been numerous reported sightings. (SCMP 3.11.03)

Recent research has shown a pronounced decline in Antarctic sea ice over the last 50 years. This contrasts with satellite observations indicating an increase in sea ice since the 1970s - however the shorter term increase may represent natural fluctuations. It is unclear whether the recent decline is a result of climate change. (SCMP 15.11.03)

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has updated its red lists to include 12 259 species in the ‘critically endangered’ category. China, Indonesia, Brazil and Peru have the highest numbers of endangered birds and mammals, while plants are most threatened in Ecuador, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Brazil. (SCMP 19.11.03)

Despite a ban on production of shahtoosh shawls, a study by the Wildlife Trust of India and the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that around 15 000 people are still weaving them. The population of Tibetan antelope, whose fur is used to weave the shawls, has dropped to under 75 000, and 20 000 are killed by poachers every year. Many people depend on the trade for their livelihood. (SCMP, 19.11.03)

A pneumonia-like disease has wiped out all five Sumatran rhinoceroses in the Sungai Dunsun captive breeding centre in Malaysia. None of them had bred yet - only one Sumatran rhino has been born in captivity since 1889. Fewer than 300 are left in the wild. Scientists hope that post-mortem examinations of the five animals will give insight into the lack of breeding success. (SCMP, 19.11.03)

Eritrea, the East African country that eventually accepted over 50 000 unwanted sheep from Australia after they were rejected by Saudia Arabia on grounds of disease, may sell them back to Saudi Arabia. The sheep spent three weeks onboard a ship after they were rejected, during which over 5 000 died of heat stress. Live exports to Saudi Arabia from Australia have since been suspended. (SCMP 19.11.03)




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