Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong Marks New Milestone of Horseshoe Crab Conservation in Hong KongAsia’s First Programme for Horseshoe Crab Rearing by Students Successfully Results in Release of over 100 Horseshoe Crabs in Native Habitat

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(17 April 2011, Hong Kong) About 120 students from 10 secondary schools today released over 100 horseshoe crabs in Ha Pak Nai (下白泥), an ecologically sensitive piece of wetland in the northwestern part of Hong Kong. The event is the culmination of the 14-month long Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme, which was launched by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) - a leading advocate of nature conservation in Hong Kong; Ocean Park Academy, Hong Kong (OPAHK) and City University of Hong Kong (CityU). According to the surveys conducted by CityU in 2009, the horseshoe crab populations in some mudflats and beaches in Hong Kong shrank by 90% between 2002 and 2009, mainly because of habitat disturbance caused by urban development.

Horseshoe crabs have undergone little evolutionary change through their history of over 400 million years. Being one of the oldest species on earth, this “living fossil” is facing the threat of extinction due to anthropomorphic changes to their habitats over the past several decades. Of the four extant species, two can be found in Hong Kong.

Mr. Timothy Ng, Deputy Director of OPCFHK, said, “Horseshoe crabs are an important part of Hong Kong’s natural heritage, so it is particularly meaningful to involve local students in conserving this native species. Since OPCFHK started working with OPAHK and CityU in 2009 on the Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme for local secondary schools, this is the first time where students get to personally experience rearing horseshoe crabs and releasing them to the wild. Through the rearing programme and today’s release, we aim to raise awareness of ongoing conservation efforts to protect horseshoe crabs and inspire the public to support the conservation of horseshoe crabs by helping protect mudflats, their natural breeding ground and refraining from consuming them.”

OPCFHK will continue to play a leadership role in horseshoe crab conservation by providing a HK$150,000 grant to the first-ever International Workshop on the Science and Conservation of Asian Horseshoe Crabs on 13-16 June at the Hong Kong Wetland Park. The goal is to engage international experts in a dialogue to develop a strategy for conserving horseshoe crabs in Asia. Participants will come from Canada, China, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA to discuss topics under four themes: populations, habitats, exploitation and public consensus.

Starting from 2006, OPCFHK has partnered with CityU to work on improving artificial breeding and rearing practices, as well as life support systems for horseshoe crabs. The total grant to-date is close to HK$700,000. Ha Pak Nai, located along the coast of Deep Bay, is a native habitat for the species. Prior to today’s release, a small electronic chip has been inserted into a number of horseshoe crabs to track their growth and survival. Over the coming 6 months, researchers will return to the mudflat every two weeks to check on the conditions of the released horseshoe crabs.

Dr. Paul Shin, Associate Professor at the Department of Biology and Chemistry, CityU, said, “While some studies showed juvenile horseshoe crabs have a higher level of tolerance to heavy metals in sea water, such toxic chemicals can accumulate in their tissues and will result in further accumulation in the food chain. Maintenance of good water quality with protection of their habitats, especially the spawning and nursery grounds, are important for the conservation of horseshoe crabs.”

“Mortality, especially during molting is the biggest challenge for the breeding of horseshoe crabs. However, we have been able to induce natural spawning and breeding of the species under laboratory conditions. A special feed, which enables horseshoe crabs to grow at or above their normal rate, has also been developed. The programme has successfully improved horseshoe crab survival rate to 16%, compared to less than 0.01% survival rate in the wild. We are pleased to work with OPCFHK, with its expertise and influence, on the horseshoe crab breeding programme,” Dr. Paul Shin added.

Under the guidance of Ocean Park’s education arm OPAHK, which is offering 56 school and public education programmes to reach out over 544,000 students throughout the years, students at 10 secondary school reared horseshoe crabs over a period of 14 months. Participating students completed an education programme at Ocean Park to enhance their knowledge about conservation. OPCFHK sponsored the required equipment while CityU offered technical support to enable students to rear the horseshoe crabs at their respective school campus. Ms. Tracy Lau, Assistant Education Manager, Ocean Park, Hong Kong said, “Personal experience is one of the best forms of education. The secondary school students who participated in the Juvenile Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme have done Hong Kong proud by taking excellent care of these wonderful horseshoe crabs. Having gained this experience in stewardship, these students will be able to help increase public awareness of animal conservation. We sincerely hope that some of them would make changes in daily lives to support conservation of endangered animal species and their natural habitats.”

Rachel Hui, a F.5 student from Pok Oi Hospital Chan Kai Memorial College, said, “We treat the horseshoe crabs as if they were our own children. The most exciting thing in the past few months was witnessing horseshoe crabs go through the molting process. Although it is sad to have to part with the horseshoe crabs that we have cared for, I am hopeful that they would thrive in their natural habitat and produce many more horseshoe crabs when they mature. At the beginning of the programme, it took us some time to familiarize with the rearing procedures before we could minimize the mortality rate. Moreover, horseshoe crab rearing requires timely care, which meant that we had to return to school to feed and look after them even on holidays, making the process quite challenging.”

About Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) was established as an independent charity trust, aiming to advocate and participate in the conservation of Asian wildlife and its habitats. Through research and education, we hope to ensure the sustainability of wildlife and biodiversity in Asia.

OPCFHK has allocated over $20 million to over 200 research projects on cetaceans, giant pandas and many other species since its expansion in 2005. We also inspire university students to engage in field work as part of our University Student Sponsorship Programme in Wildlife Conservation.

After the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, OPCFHK established a Giant Panda Base Rebuilding Fund and donated equipment to the affected nature reserves to help them resume daily operations. Conservation study and habitat restoration efforts were also supported. As an independent charitable trust, we need your support to sustain these efforts.

For details, please visit www.opcf.org.hk

About City University of Hong Kong

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is committed to providing quality higher education to its students and promoting applied research. We strive to produce a new breed of graduates who will excel in their professions and possess a broad knowledge base to cope with the challenges of a changing world. The University has a strong team of experienced academic staff with diverse research interests and professional expertise. Supported by top quality teaching and research facilities, CityU provides students with an excellent environment for learning and research. For more information about CityU, please visit the website: www.cityu.edu.hk.

About Ocean Park

Ocean Park is Hong Kong’s unique home grown theme park with a heritage of delivering family fun and fond memories. Since its opening in January 1977 as a non-profit organisation, Ocean Park has developed itself to be a world-class attraction connecting people with nature, and recognised for its animal husbandry, research and relationship with the community. Over 100 million people have visited Hong Kong's premier park since its inception, and Ocean Park has remained committed to offering adults and children experiences that blend entertainment with education and conservation. Part of the proceeds from Ocean Park admission tickets, animal programmes and panda souvenirs will go to Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong to support its wildlife conservation projects. In 2009-2010, donation amounts to HK$8.20 million.

Ocean Park - Giving Back to the Community

As Hong Kong’s People’s Park, Ocean Park has launched different community initiatives to enable Hong Kong people from all walks of life to enjoy the Park’s offerings. These initiatives include 1) concessionary admission for Hong Kong residents on their birthdays, Hong Kong residents aged 65 years and above, and holders of Registration Card for People with Disabilities; and 2) sponsored admission to individuals and members of families receiving assistance from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA), and Social Welfare Department member organizations. The Park also gives donation-in-kind to charitable organizations, offers special rates for school tours, and spearheads many other community caring projects. During the fiscal year of 2009-2010, Ocean Park maintained a total of 13 social care programmes, with over 350,000 beneficiaries and an aggregate value to the community equivalent to HK$85,000,000.

For more information please contact:

Weber Shandwick

Shirley Wong

Tel:(852)2533-9935 / 9174-3399

Email: shwong@webershandwick.com

City University of Hong Kong

Ellen Chan, Communications Officer,

Tel: (852)3442-6808

Email: ellen.chan@cityu.edu.hk


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