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Vertebrates (pdf)

Whatever happened to the humphead wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, after its CITES Appendix II listing?

Baseline study at Mabian Dafengding Nature Reserve, Sichuan

A survey of reef fish diversity in Port Shelter

Night safaris in Lung Fu Shan Country Park, Hong Kong

"Man of the forest" – a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

Finless porpoises in Wuhan, China

The bird fauna of Lung Fu Shan and the University of Hong Kong

Baseline study at Mabian Dafengding Nature Reserve, Sichuan (pdf)

by Fion Cheung

With sponsorship provided by the Ocean Park Conservation Fund Hong Kong (OPCFHK), Tony Hung (ENS Year 2) and I had the chance to join a group of researchers and postgraduate students from Sichuan University to conduct a baseline study at Mabian Dafengding Nature Reserve, Southern Sichuan from 4 to 14 December, 2005. Since Tony and I are interested in bird watching, we followed an ornithologist, Mr. Zheng Zhirong, to conduct the bird survey while other surveyors conducted plant and mammal surveys. In our 4-day survey, we spent about 8 hours a day doing transect counts along planned routes in different areas including climbing up hills to reach pristine places in the nature reserve. Any bird species observed were recorded together with the time and location by using a Global Positioning System Unit. A total of 27 bird species (Table 1) was recorded. These included two protected species of Sichuan Province, the Greater Yellownape (Picus flavinucha) and the Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus); both were also new records in Dafengding Nature Reserve. For me, every bird species we came across was really amazing because most of them (21 species) were my first records! Through conversations with Mr. Zheng, I also learned about the interesting distribution patterns of birds and methods for distinguishing bird species with similar appearance.

During this trip, we learned that the building of hydropower stations (Fig. 1) and mining operations (Fig. 2) are two of the main threats (in addtion to illegal collection of bamboo shoots, logging and hunting) that the nature reserve is now facing. The former inevitably destroys natural streams and the electricity generated does not even benefit the local communities. Mining explosions were heard almost non-stop throughout the days during our survey which was on top of a 2000 m mountain. The scenes of birds flushed by the explosions really made us sad. These mining activities do not just result in serious habitat destruction and soil erosion but also heavy traffic jams in the area as the over-loaded mining trucks often broke down on the narrow nature reserve road. One night when we were on the way back to the city, which is just 40 km away from the nature reserve, we were trapped in the bus for 19 hours because of several traffic congestions!

Fig. 1. A natural stream (left) and a hydropower station (right) in Shaqiang Nature Reserve Station.

Table 1. Bird species recorded in a 4-day survey at Dafengding Nature Reserve. Common and species names follow MacKinnon et al. (2000). A field guide to the birds of China. Oxford University Press, 517pp.


Common name

Species name


Black-browed Tit

Aegithalos bonvaloti


Black-faced Laughingthrush

Garrulax affinis


Blue-fronted Redstart

Phoenicurus frontalis


Brown Dipper

Cinclus pallasii


Chestnut Thrush

Turdus rubrocanus


Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush

Garrulax erythrocephalus


Crimson-breasted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos cathpharius


Eurasian Jay

Garrulus glandarius


Golden-breasted Fulvetta

Alcippe chrysotis


Greater Yellownape

Picus flavinucha


Green-backed Tit

Parus monticolus


Grey-cheeked Fulvetta

Alcippe morrisonia


Grey-headed Bullfinch

Pyrrhula erythaca


Grey-headed Woodpecker

Picus canus


Little Forktail

Enicurus scouleri


Orange-flanked Bush Robin

Tarsiger cyanurus


Plumbeous Water Redstart

Rhyacornis fuliginosus


Red-billed Blue Magpie

Urocissa erythrorhyncha


Red-headed Trogon

Harpactes erythrocephalus


Red-winged Laughingthrush

Garrulax formosus


Rufous-capped Babbler

Stachyris ruficeps


Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus ruficollis


Vinaceous Rosefinch

Carpodacus vinaceus


White-capped Water Redstart

Chaimarrornis leucocephalus


Winter Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes


Yellow-bellied Tit

Parus venustulus


Yellow-throated Bunting

Emberiza elegans

The conflict between development and environmental protection is very apparent at Dafengding. I think it is critical is to find a balance between them. Development is, of course, needed especially in developing countries but one should also bear in mind that the destroyed environment can probably never revert back to its original state. With more and more people better educated in Mainland China, I sincerely hope that people will be prepared to stand up and ask for better conservation policies such as enforcing environment impact assessments (EIA), especially in provinces with rich biodiversity such as Sichuan and Yunnan.

Fig. 2. Mining activities causing serious soil erosion.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to OPCFHK and DEB for organizing this valuable trip giving us the opportunity to see what is actually happening outside Hong Kong with our own eyes. I still remember the conversation I had with experts in Dafengding. I asked whether they felt frustrated and were pessimistic about the future as their study area was being destroyed even though they had collected data showing its ecological importance. They said, "Yes, of course. But at least we have tried our best to protect this place. Keeping the frustration and doing nothing cannot help the situation. So, no matter how little we can achieve, we will keep on doing our work." I just wish to share this comment with all colleagues in the conservation field.



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