Threatened European eels in Hong Kong supermarkets


This 2015 video says about itself:

Find out about the incredible life cycle of the Critically Endangered European eel and their amazing migration.

From the University of Hong Kong:

Endangered species on supermarket shelves

Surprising prevalence of European Eel in Hong Kong’s food supply

March 6, 2020

Imagine purchasing products from your local grocer, only to find out that those products are comprised of critically endangered species! That’s what a team from the University of Hong Kong, Division of Ecology and Biodiversity has recently discovered on Hong Kong supermarket shelves. A team led by Dr David Baker from the University’s Conservation Forensics laboratory, has recently published the results from an investigation into European eel products on sale in Hong Kong supermarkets.

The study, published in Science Advances, found that nearly 50% of retail eel products, ranging from fillets to snack items from grocers and convenience stores, contained a critically endangered species of fish. According to the IUCN, The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is at risk of extinction. For this reason, trade in European eels and their food product derivatives is subject to international regulation under the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). CITES is meant to ensure that permits are required for their import and export in an effort to regulate trade and foster conservation.

Eel, extremely popular in East Asia and particularly Japan, has traditionally been fished from East Asian populations of the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica). However, overexploitation due to growing demand from mainland China and a combination of threats ranging from rising ocean temperatures, parasites, and dammed rivers have led to dramatic declines in eel populations. This is true not only for European and Japanese species, but also for their American and Indo-Pacific relatives.

To satisfy demand for eel in East Asia, juvenile eels (known as glass eels) are caught while swimming upstream in their native range spanning Europe and North Africa, and smuggled to Asia to be raised to maturity. To date, captive breeding of eels has not been economically viable; wild-caught glass eels are thus used to “seed” eel farms. In recent years the illegal trade has been highlighted by a number of high-profile investigations and increasing prosecutions.

“The illegal export of glass eels from Europe to Asia has now been recognised as one of the world’s greatest wildlife crimes and Europol has estimated the scale of over 300 million eels (2018 data) annually. The next step is to investigate the global consumer markets to identify where these trafficked eels are eventually consumed. The numbers from Hong Kong are very alarming and reflect the huge amounts of European eels that are being farmed in Asia. It is now up to individual countries to investigate the scale of European eels entering their national food chains illegally.” -Florian Stein, Sustainable Eel Group

The international trade in glass eels is incredibly lucrative. One kilogram of glass eels can contain up to 3,500 individuals and has been recorded selling for over HKD$50,000 on the black market. This highly profitable trade has attracted the attention of international criminal syndicates, who smuggle glass eels in suitcases from Europe to Asia for resale. In their juvenile stages, eels are extremely difficult to identify to the species level. The two most common cousins of the endangered European eel (the Japanese and American eel) are not listed in CITES, therefore no permit is required for their trade. Because of the challenges in visual identification, endangered European eels can be laundered along with their legally traded relatives.

Already, the existence of Europe-Asia smuggling routes has been documented, but the ultimate destination of the smuggled eels remained elusive. Originally conceived as an undergraduate project looking at seafood mislabeling, the investigation into European eel took off when students noticed a surprising amount of European eel present in supermarket products.

“The eel project is the most exciting thing I have done during my undergraduate study in HKU. I once thought research was only for postgraduates and professors, but it turns out I, even as a student, was able to do meaningful research that actually made an impact in illegal trading. This has made me more determined to continue work in environmental fields.” -Haze Chung, Year 4 Undergraduate Researcher

The study covered a wide range of Hong Kong supermarkets and convenience stores across all districts. Surprisingly, almost 50% of the eel products surveyed were determined to be European eel. The results from this study suggested that large scale smuggling networks trafficking European eels are interwoven with local supplier chains, resulting in endangered species ending up on supermarket shelves, totally unbeknownst to consumers.

Thirteen new ant species discovery in Hong Kong


This September 2018 video says about itself:

Lives of Asian Weaver Ants ||Ants in Hong Kong||

Today is a look into the lives of Oecophylla smaragdina! These are some insane ants! Be sure to watch till the end!

From The University of Hong Kong:

“If you believe that all life surrounding you in Hong Kong has been discovered, then you’ll realise that you just need to look a bit closer… not for big things, but for ants and other insects walking at your feet, to find a plethora of new creatures,” said Dr Benoit Guénard from the School of Biological Sciences of the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

In two separate articles recently published in Zookeys and Asian Myrmecology, Dr Guénard and his team expanded the knowledge on Hong Kong ants by adding 13 species to the 174 species officially recorded.

Among those are three new species of the genus “Strumigenys“, also known as miniature trap-jaw ants, new to science and thus far known only from Hong Kong. As their name indicates, these species are tiny, measuring only 2 to 4mm long but are astounding predators of the small arthropods living in the forest leaf-litter. They can open their mandibles widely and snap their prey with the fast-closing movement of their mandibles.

The new species described by a recent HKU graduate student Wilfred Kit Lam Tang, and the researchers Mr. Mac Pierce and Dr Benoit Guénard, are named Strumigenys hirsuta, in reference to its hairy appearance; Strumigenys lantaui, as this extremely rare species is known only from a single locality on Lantau Island; and Strumigenys nathistorisoc, in honour of the Hong Kong Natural History Society which funded this research through the Name an Ant Program which invites donors to support scientific research on biodiversity in exchange for having a species named after them.

Ken Bradley, Chairman of the Hong Kong Natural History Society said that the Society readily supports Dr. Guénard’s research which is line with the Society’s objective of “encouraging the study of Natural History in general and in particular in Hong Kong.” “There are still many species in Hong Kong to be discovered and the support and involvement from the community in this endeavour is absolutely fundamental,” said Dr. Guénard.

Another five species of Strumigenys are newly recorded from Hong Kong but had already been described from other Asian regions. One of them, Strumigenys formosa, was known only from Taiwan where only two queens had been collected since its discovery in 1988. For the first time, the worker caste is thus described from a single specimen collected in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve; enhancing our knowledge on this species’ distribution and its importance for conservation. Other species recorded were previously known from South East Asia, Japan, Taiwan or other provinces of China. Finding these new, and for some of them rare species, is a good thing for Hong Kong and its biodiversity, but other discoveries are more worrisome.

Indeed, five of the species newly recorded are non-native to Hong Kong, four belonging to the Strumigenys genus, and one, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, here recorded for the first time from mainland Asia. This latter is an urban pest well-known for its ability to enter and establish nests within a wide range of buildings, like hospitals, hotels, schools, and houses, and colonise various rooms such as kitchens, offices, and laundry rooms, but also more sensitive areas such as infirmary and neonatal units. In some American states, where it is also introduced, it has become the species causing the most frequent intervention from pest control companies. If the population in Hong Kong, currently known only from Hung Hom, was to proliferate, it would most likely induce an increase in pest management costs; and more harmful for the environment and populations, a more frequent use of pesticides.

The discovery of five more exotic species in Hong Kong, like the fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) in the early 2000’s, highlights the regional importance of Hong Kong in importing species, some with important consequences for human populations and local biodiversity. It also indicates the need to deploy efficient survey and monitoring programmes to quickly detect these species after their arrival so targeted actions to suppress them or limit their spread through Hong Kong and beyond can be activated.

Monitoring Hong Kong insects can thus reveal both beautiful and alarming discoveries. With probably several hundreds, if not thousands of species waiting to be found, it shows the fantastic diversity that the city still has to offer if protected sufficiently. In parallel, it also represents an important step for uncovering more alarming species, in particular exotic ones for which early detection represents a key requirement to ensure success in the limitation of their spread and negative impacts.

Placozoan primitive animals, new species discovery


This 13 June 2018 video says about itself:

Placozoa | Animal Fact Files

On this episode of Animal Fact Files discover the most simple animal.

From the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany:

Animal taxonomy: Outwardly identical, yet distinct

July 31, 2018

Summary: All placozoans are superficially identical. But comparative genomic data reveals the presence of different genera. This is the first time that a new animal genus has been defined solely by genomics.

Up until quite recently, the animal phylum Placozoa enjoyed a unique position in animal systematics. It was the only phylum to which only a single species had ever been assigned: Trichoplax adhaerens. Now, however, at team led by Professor Gert Wörheide of LMU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and GeoBio-Center has discovered that placozoan specimens collected from coastal waters off Hong Kong clearly differ from T. adhaerens in their genetic make-up. Indeed, the differences between the two are so striking that the Hong Kong population not only represents a new species but also has been assigned to a new genus — even though the two genera are morphologically indistinguishable. The definition of a new species and genus solely on the basis of comparative genomic data constitutes a new departure in the systematic classification of animals. The findings appear in PLOS Biology.

Placozoa are among the simplest known multicellular animals, lacking both muscles and nerve cells. They are only a few millimeters long and their cells are organized into two flat layers. They have been found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. But, regardless of locality of origin, all placozoans have the same gross morphology and same basic cellular architecture. Since conventional approaches to the definition and differentiation of animal species rely on differences in overall body plans and detailed morphology, all placozoan specimens so far collected have been attributed to the species T. adhaerens, which was first described in 1883. “However, genetic data based on short DNA signature sequences that serve to distinguish species from one another had already suggested that placozoans exhibit a great deal of genetic diversity. And that in turn indicates that the phylum actually includes many different species,” says Wörheide.

For this reason, he and his colleagues decided to sequence the genome of a placozoan line derived from specimens collected in Hong Kong. Their signature sequences indicated that this line was distantly related to T. adhaerens, whose genome was published in 2008. “Based on comparative genomic analysis, we then developed a novel method for the description of a new species based exclusively on genomic data”, says Michael Eitel, first author of the new study. The researchers refer to this approach as ‘taxogenomics’, which takes into account factors such as structural differences between chromosomes, differences in the total number of genes, and sequence differences between selected protein-coding genes.

The genetic and genomic data for the placozoans from Hong Kong revealed such large differences between them and T. adhaerens that they were ultimately assigned not only to a new species, but to a new genus, which represents a higher rank in the hierarchy of biological taxonomy. “This is a completely new departure. It is the first time that a new genus has been erected purely on the basis of genomic data”, Wörheide explains. The new species bears the name Hoilungia hongkongensis. This translates as ‘Hong Kong Sea Dragon’ — which refers to the fact that, just like the Dragon King in Chinese mythology, placozoans can readily alter their shapes.

The authors of the new study believe that the placozoans may have undergone a very peculiar mode of evolution, in which speciation has occurred exclusively at the genetic level without notable morphological diversification. “We have some indications that point to the operation of negative selection, so it is possible that the development of morphological novelties may be repressed. But we are still very much at the beginning of the search for an explanation of this unique evolutionary trajectory”, says Eitel.

The authors also suggest that the taxogenomic approach could also be used for detailed studies of the process of speciation in other animal phyla. This holds in particular for animal groups that consist of minuscule individuals, such as nematodes and mites, in which it is often difficult to discriminate between species by optical inspection alone.

Hong Kong ivory sales will be banned


Pro-elephant demonstrators in Hong Kong

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hong Kong votes to ban ivory sales

HONG KONG banned local ivory trading today, but the law will not come fully into force until 2021 when traders’ current licences expire.

Members of the Legislative Council voted 49 to four in favour of outlawing sales of ivory in the Chinese special administrative region, which conservationists say is the biggest ivory retail market in the world.

The maximum sentence for smuggling the banned animal parts, whose trade has resulted in widespread illegal poaching of elephants, rises to a 10 million Hong Kong dollar fine (£900,000) and 10 years in prison, up from a five million dollar fine and two years.

China banned all ivory sales at the start of the year, having shut down all carving factories and shops last year, but Hong Kong law remains separate under the “one country, two systems” model negotiated with former imperial occupier Britain.

Previous law allowed the sale of ivory dating from before the trade began to be regulated internationally in the 1970s, but some traders used the market to “launder” newer ivory.

Illegal ivory trade in the Netherlands: here.

Bird Eco-Art in Hong Kong


This video says about itself:

Birds of Victoria Park, Hong Kong, Winter 2012-3

The stills were shot primarily on a Canon PowerShot SX50 and supplemented by Canon 7D. The park although located next to the bustling shopping centre of Causeway Bay is the winter home for a wide variety of birds. © Bob Thompson

From BirdLife:

27 Oct 2017

Bird Eco-Art in Hong Kong: inspiring a new audience

For thousands of years, nature has inspired artists across the world to create works of breathtaking beauty. And by encouraging people to observe and appreciate nature, we can inspire them to help conserve it. That’s why the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society has introduced an innovative programme which combines conservation and creativity to bring our message to a wider public than ever before.

By Christina YM Chan, Hong Kong Birdwatching Society

Art and nature have always gone hand in hand. In recent decades, movements like Land Art, Earth Art and Environmental Art have swept across Europe, the USA, Japan and Taiwan. These artists use creativity to demonstrate their love of nature and to raise awareness, with some even deploying natural materials and creating their works in the wild.

Since the 1990s, artists have gone one step further and joined forces with conservationists, combining their knowledge to create a new genre, Eco-Art. Eco-Art spans the media, using visual art, installation, music, dance and drama to deliver messages across the whole community, reaching audiences who might not have been interested in hard science.

Over the past 60 years, we at the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (BirdLife in China (Hong Kong)) have been working hard to realise our vision: People and Birds Together, Nature Forever. Last year, we launched Hong Kong Birds Eco-Art after observing how many artists of all genres had been inspired by the vivid colour and beauty of birds.

We believe that art isn’t just for artists, but for everyone, as everyone has the unique ability to be creative. So we invited members of the public of all backgrounds to join in this innovative education programme, combining birdwatching with art creation. We hoped that the experience of creating art in nature would not only enthuse participants about the birds that inspired them, but also stimulate support for the habitat that they live in.

Our first programme, supported by Hong Kong Railway Company Limited, provided a series of workshops exploring the following skills:

Light Stencils

Many birds overwinter in Hong Kong, or pass by the city on their yearly migration. Factors like climate change and habitat loss mean that some are now rarely seen or have even disappeared. Such species include the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Spoon-billed SandpipeEurynorhynchus pygmeus, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and Black Stork Ciconia nigra.

By cutting out silhouettes and using a flashlight with long exposure photography, workshop participants allowed the soul and spirit of these lost birds to return to Hong Kong in the form of light.

Floating Platforms

A large number of fishponds in northern Hong Kong fall within a Ramsar site. Due to its ample supply of food, this is an important refueling stop for migratory birds. We selected a fishpond in San Tin as the project site.

The floating platforms were intended as a place for visiting birds to forage, or simply to rest during their long migration. Participants practiced associative thinking in a range of exercises, including writing letters to the birds. They then interpreted their feelings and wishes for the birds into floating platform designs, drawing inspiration from surrounding habitat.

Birds in motion

When we mention bird photography, most people’s thought jump straight to nature documentaries. But bird photographers are also experts at capturing form, colour and the distinctive behavior and unique personalities of the different bird species. In fact, it’s easy to compare bird species to different humans: some act like busy blue-collar workers, some like retired old men, and some are vain and beautiful, captivated by their own reflection!

Participants used continuous shooting and time-lapse photography to capture the quirks and foibles of each bird species. The photographs were then made into flipbooks with a title that encapsulated the character of that particular bird.

Hong Kong protest against shark fin cruelty


This video says about itself:

Cathay Pacific Shark Fin Protest at Hong Kong International Airport, 29 May 2016

Anger at Cathay Pacific for their stubborn stance on shark fin cargo shipments had been building for some time.

Today it erupted in a flashmob protest at their airline check in counters at Hong Kong International Airport.

The members of the public who voiced their disgust at the check-in desks this morning were obviously not doing so for fun, but as a last resort.

The problem is that sustainable shark fin is a total impossibility, which is why ‘No Shark Fin‘ carriage policies are now mainstream aviation industry best practice.

That’s also why we at WildAid cannot understand why Cathay Pacific won’t simply join 35 other global airlines in implementing a meaningful shark fin ban.

What is clear, however, is that Cathay Pacific are pandering to the shark fin trade, as vested interests profiteer from overfishing and the extinction of sharks.

We’ve asked Cathay Pacific how many tonnes of shark fin they still ship every year, but they won’t tell us.

Neither will Cathay Pacific tell us how they can ensure the legality of the shark fin it transports.

On the other hand, Cathay Pacific pilots are telling us that tonnes of shark fin are still entering Hong Kong via the short haul Asia regional routes from Indonesia, Maldives, India and Sri Lanka.

We’ve also heard that murky deals to freight so-called sustainable shark fin from the Pacific Islands have even been struck with Fiji Airways.

Cathay Pacific, once the pride of Hong Kong, is a now pariah airline and an international disgrace.

Sign the petition here.

Indian Ocean Sharks at Risk From Deepwater Gillnets: here.

Still 11 shark fin restaurants in the Netherlands: here.

Will Hong Kong ivory trade stop?


This 2014 video is called Hong Kong, one of the key transit points for ivory smuggling into mainland China, is making efforts to curb the illegal trade.

From Wildlife Extra:

Hong Kong government signals end to domestic ivory trade

Hong Kong – Following a major anti-ivory campaign by WWF-Hong Kong, the city’s Chief Executive, C Y Leung, announced today that the government is actively exploring phasing out the domestic ivory trade.

The government is also set to strengthen efforts to tackle the illegal ivory trade.

Every year around 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa for their tusks, primarily to satisfy the demand for ivory products in Asia. Hong Kong is a key part of this trade as a major transit and retail hub, with a study last year revealing that there were more ivory items for sale in Hong Kong than in any other city in the world.

“The Chief Executive’s decision represents a significant step toward the end of Hong Kong’s ivory trade and a major milestone for elephant conservation,” said Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director, WWF-Hong Kong. “It is no longer a question of if a ban is needed – we can focus on when and how to end Hong Kong’s ivory trade.”

Giving his annual policy address, Chief Executive Leung stressed that Hong Kong is very concerned about the poaching of elephants in Africa and stated that the government will consider “appropriate measures, such as enacting legislation to further ban the import and export of ivory and phase out the local ivory trade.”

Hong Kong said it will also impose heavier penalties for smuggling and the illegal trade in endangered species.

“The government must rapidly implement this decision and develop a concrete timeline to phase out the ivory trade because there is no time to waste,” added Edwards.

Last year, WWF-Hong Kong launched its campaign to end the ivory trade in concert with other conservation organisations, legislators and with wide public support. In early September, WWF-Hong Kong released a report that revealed fundamental flaws in the regulations governing the domestic ivory trade, which allowed traders to launder illegal ivory from Africa – contributing directly to the elephant poaching crisis.

Yesterday, WWF handed in a petition to ban the trade signed by tens of thousands of Hong Kongers. The city’s lawmaking body, the Legislative Council, also passed a motion in December calling for the government to explore further restrictions on the ivory trade, so as to ultimately achieve a total ban on the trade.

“The Hong Kong government has listened to the voices of the city’s people and politicians who have been clearly calling for a ban,” said Cheryl Lo, Senior Wildlife Crime Officer, WWF-Hong Kong. “Hong Kong can now play a leadership role and strike a major blow against the global illegal ivory trade and wildlife crime.”

The decision follows the announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama in September 2015 that they would take significant and timely steps to halt their domestic commercial ivory trades.

It also comes as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Standing Committee is meeting in Geneva – with ivory trafficking and elephant poaching high on the agenda.

Yesterday, the European Union tabled recommendations in relation to National Ivory Action Plans, including calling on Hong Kong to provide further information on its registration system for ivory and the implementation and enforcement of regulations for domestic ivory trade.

Most illegal ivory is less than three years old: here.

Thatcher government plans to deport Hong Kong people to Northern Ireland


This video from Mauritius says about itself:

Demonstration against UK occupation over Chagos

Event: Peaceful march
Date: Wednesday, 7 April, 2010
March co-ordinator: LALIT

To put on the agenda once again the original demands for full decolonization, the re-unification of Mauritius, for base closure and environmental clean-up, and for the right to return and reparations for all Chagossians. What this means is that the march is perhaps the beginning of a new long-term campaign that needs to be built up on these issues.

After the British Harold Wilson government deported all people forcibly from Diego Garcia island in the Chagos archipelago to give place to a United States military (and torture) base … after Wilson’s Conservative successors in the 1970s seriously discussed the possibility of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Northern Ireland by driving all people opposed to the Great Britain-Northern Ireland union violently south across the six counties-twenty-six counties border (recalling the seventeenth century, when the English military said to the Irish people of Ulster: ‘To Connacht, or to hell!’), now this about the later Thatcher administration …

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thatcher files: Ministers considered Hong Kong relocation

Friday 3rd July 2013

THE government seems to have seriously considered a proposal for the entire population of Hong Kong to be shipped lock, stock and barrel to Northern Ireland, newly released documents show.

This hare-brained scheme was suggested during the height of the Troubles by Reading University lecturer Christie Davies, who asserted that when Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 there would be no future for its 5.5 million inhabitants.

The alternative, he suggested, was to resettle them in a new “city state” to be established between Coleraine and Derry, revitalising the stagnant Northern Ireland economy.

Recently released National Archives files show that the idea sparked a flurry of correspondence in Whitehall.

When details appeared in October 1983, George Fergusson, an official in the Northern Ireland Office, sent a memorandum to a colleague in the Republic of Ireland department of the Foreign Office, declaring: “At this stage, we see real advantages in taking the proposal seriously.”

Among the benefits, he suggested, was that it would help convince the unionist population that the British government was committed to retaining Northern Ireland.

If this moronic scheme would have gone ahead, then it would have run into trouble from bigotry among the most fanatical of unionists in Northern Ireland. These are not just bigoted against pro-republican Northern Irish people. Or against Romanian people. Or against Jews. There is also nasty racism against people of Chinese ancestry there.

Save pangolins, video


This video says about itself:

What is a Pangolin?

19 February 2016

Today is World Pangolin Day! Find out all about the amazing and critically endangered pangolin – the world’s only scaly mammal!

Learn more about ZSL [Zoological Society of London]’s work to protect the pangolin here.

April 27 [2015]–Indonesian National Police Seize Major Shipment of Pangolins, Arrest Smuggler: here.

Rediscovering the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked mammal: here.

The illegal trade in live pangolins, their meat, and their scales in Myanmar is booming says TRAFFIC published in Global Ecology and Conservation. Their report identifies the Special Development Zone of Mong La as a particular concern: here.

Hong Kong butterflies decline


This video says about itself:

Hong Kong Wetland Park spotlights butterflies

30 April 2013

With their fantastic colors and fanciful wings, butterflies are one of nature’s most enticing creatures for photographers and insect lovers. “The Flying Beauties” exhibition is now open at Hong Kong Wetland Park, featuring the most common butterfly species in Hong Kong and specimens from around the world. Visitors can learn more about butterfly anatomy, life cycle, survival strategies and courtship behaviour.

The park will host related activities, aimed at enhancing awareness of butterfly conservation. Wetland Park Manager (Education & Community Services) Josephine Cheng said Wetland Park’s Butterfly Garden offers an ideal habitat for butterflies and is a great spot for butterfly watching. The park has abundant nectar and larval food plants, and recorded 157 species — about 60% of the total number of butterfly species in Hong Kong.

Showcases also offer visitors a rare opportunity to get close-up and observe caterpillars feeding on young leaves. Survival strategies – More than 500 specimens help illustrate a butterfly’s life cycle in the park’s scenic models, including living, eating and mating habits. To avoid predators such as birds, butterflies have special strategies. “Some butterflies can pretend to be some similar but poisonous species, with colorful patterns on their wings, to avoid having their predators eat them, while some other species pretend to be a leaf so that they can hide themselves in the natural environment,” Miss Cheng said.

Special events – Wetland Park is presenting the exhibition from April to October 28. Butterfly specialists will share their knowledge and tips, including techniques for identifying and photographing them, in lectures to be held during the exhibition period. Speakers will also share worldwide hotspots for butterfly watching and the importance of butterfly conservation. Guided tours will teach participants about common species in Hong Kong. The park is also organising a photo collection activity, playgroups and a butterfly cotton bag-making class.

From the South China Morning Post:

Butterfly numbers dip at key Tuen Mun site in Hong Kong

Ernest Kao

Thursday, 12 February, 2015, 12:35am

The number of butterflies spending the winter at a key Tuen Mun site fell to a six-year low this season, possibly due to a changing climate and disruptions to migratory patterns, a study has found.

According to environmental group Green Power, which conducted the study between November and last month, the number of danaidae butterflies at Siu Lang Shui – a wooded former landfill site near Butterfly Beach – dropped over 80 per cent this winter.

From the 230 recorded in 2013-14, the number fell to just 41 this winter, the lowest since the green group’s first survey in the winter of 2009-10.

Danaidae, or milkweed butterflies, are a common subspecies [rather, a family, or subfamily]. They include the crow, tiger and monarch butterflies.

The group’s senior environmental affairs manager, Matthew Sin Kar-wah, said numbers fluctuated from year to year. They hit a high of 5,469 in 2012-13, before dropping again this winter.

It is not known what caused the sudden surge in 2012, nor the reasons for this winter’s drop.

“When everyone was disappointed about the low numbers, it suddenly jumped back up in 2012 and we all thought it was a recovery,” said Sin. “That is why we can’t say for sure whether [this year’s] drop indicates a good or bad trend.”

Two other major sites – Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong Island and Fan Lau on Lantau Island – also saw major drops.

The group suspects two factors are at play. One was a relatively warmer climate in East Asia, which may have deterred the butterflies from flying further to escape harsh winters.

Another possible reason was a change in the environment of stopover points along migratory routes. Rapid urban development on the southern mainland may have altered or even destroyed natural habitats, disrupting migratory patterns, Sin said.