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Hong Kong to get new country park, protection for incense trees and horseshoe crabs

Robin’s Nest close to the border will be designated a country park and species such as the Chinese pangolin and certain freshwater turtles will receive protection

Some 67 measures are included in a long-awaited blueprint on biological diversity and conservation in the city over the next five years.

Released yesterday, it also takes forward the designation of Robin’s Nest, near the border town of Sha Tau Kok, as the city’s 25th country park.

Furthermore, it proposes a threatened species list and pledges to formulate specific conservation approaches for local species.

Initiated in 2013 in line with UN Convention on Biological ¬Diversity requirements, the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) focuses on the enhancement of conservation, mainstreaming the concept of biodiversity, improving knowledge and promoting community involvement.

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said the city’s first such plan would be implemented by an interdepartmental working group chaired by the secretary for the environment and would ultimately “step up biodiversity conservation and support sustainable development”.

The new country park, covering more than 400 hectares of land in the northeastern New Territories, would dovetail with another aim to ¬expand wildlife habitat connectivity – Robin’s Nest adjoins Shenzhen’s Wutong Shan National Forest Park, forming a continuous “ecological corridor”.

“The government will commence the preparation for the designation of Robin’s Nest as a new country park, including seeking views of other departments and stakeholders including the local villagers, before initiating statutory procedures under the Country Parks Ordinance,” the report read.

More ecologically important enclaves would also come under the parks system in “appropriate locations”, although no further details were given.

A new conservation strategy is promised for five threatened “priority species”, including the Chinese pangolin, selected freshwater turtles, the horseshoe crab and incense tree. Existing conservation plans for species such as the Chinese white dolphin and Romer’s tree frog will be -reviewed and strengthened.

Gavin Edwards, conservation dreictor at WWF-Hong Kong, welcomed the plan but said it scored low on marine conservation due to a lack of a clear target on how much of local waters should be protected. The UN convention recommends a global target of 10 per cent, but here just 2 per cent is protected.

Dr Leung Siu-fai, director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, said ongoing plans for marine parks [1] around the Brothers and Soko islands, as well as southwest -Lantau, would raise the city’s level “to 4 to 5 per cent”.

Paul Zimmerman, a member of the BSAP committee that offered advice on the drafting of the plan, said its vision and mission were “well structured”, but offered few practical measures to meet the target of halving the global rate of habitat loss.

“There has been a creeping loss [of habitat] due to illegal landfilling and other hostile actions or acts of eco-vandalism over private land,” he said. “The government is also taking away green belts for housing, rather than developing brownfield sites.”
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