Roger Kendrick

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am


NATURAL HISTORY I was brought up in Marlow-on-Thames [outside of London]. Our house was nothing special, in what was a very exclusive town, but the garden was. It was a full acre, had two ponds and was full of natural wildlife: butterflies, birds, frogs and newts. Even at an early age I was conducting investigations into natural history, helped by my adoptive mother, who was a trained horticulturist. She was also a sub-editor on a magazine called Amateur Gardening and worked with some, now nationally renowned, wildlife people like Alan Titchmarsh. There has been a kind of logic to what I have ended up doing, but the road has been long. I ended up taking a degree in materials technology. During my degree, my adoptive mother passed away while she was living in Hong Kong. My adop-tive father had come out here for a stint with the Productivity Council from 1992 to 2003 and then the Institution of Engineers. I was 20 at the time and my mother's death made me think about what I wanted to do. Instead of concentrating on my degree, I spent most of my final year doing conservation work. It was something I felt more comfortable with.

SPREADING WINGS I spent a lot of time cutting down trees, doing hedgerow and meadow management, and getting back to the butterfly recording of my youth. I spent a year helping out at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust doing con-servation management and, after the degree in materials technology, I took a training course offered by the trust. It was around this time that I became hooked on moths. For most people, moths are an offbeat subject. But butterflies, which are more universally loved, are a type of moth, too. Moths are important for two main reasons: most white-flowered fruit and vegetables are pollinated by moths and they are key converters of plant material into small protein packages for birds and small mammals. They are a critical component of most terrestrial ecosystems. Another reason moths are important is that they are indicators of biological integrity: if certain species are missing from a particular habitat, the environment has been compromised in some way.

EAST OF EAST ANGLIA As part of a bachelor of science conservation degree at the University of East Anglia, I came to Hong Kong [in the summer of 1994]. I did a comparison of the moth fauna at Mai Po marshes to several secondary forest sites such as Tai Po Kau, Kadoorie Farm and what used to be the Kadoorie Agricultural Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong. When I finish-ed my degree, I started a PhD in moth diversity at the university. In 2001, I joined staff at Kadoorie Farm and I founded my wildlife company, C&R Wildlife. I've helped to add more than 900 moth species to the Hong Kong list - it now contains more than 2,300 - including many that were new to science, most of which still await scientific description. Several species, including the Crambidae eristena sp nov [nr. argentata], are thought to occur only in Hong Kong. The Crambidae eristena is one of the mini-species in Hong Kong which we don't have enough information about. It's only known from three fragmented sites with small populations: Hoi Ha in the northeast part of Sai Kung Country Park, Tung Chung and an undisclosed coastal location. It meets the International Union for Conservation of Nature's criteria for a critically endangered species. As Hoi Ha has the largest known population, this would merit conservation of the site to promote conservation of the species. Hoi Ha is an anomaly as it's an enclave within a country park, but not protected by the country park statute because of the New Territories Small House Policy. More than 200 species in Hong Kong could meet these criteria, which shows much more work is needed to map and understand the ecology of these species so they can be conserved. Crambidae eristena is a flagship species for all the wildlife at Hoi Ha.

NO ROAR, MORE BOAR Hong Kong has a diverse range of wildlife. It's sad that we lost our mega-fauna such as leopards and tigers, which are key to any Oriental ecosystem. These mega-fauna would have controlled species such as wild boar and barking deer, which are definitely increasing. In the case of boar, the increase is not a welcome development because people are scared of them, and they sometimes destroy Hong Kong's remaining agriculture because they like fruit and vegetables as much as we do.

DOWN TO EARTH Hong Kong people are almost completely disconnected from nature and, therefore, there should be more citizen science programmes. Hongkongers also need to get out and not be afraid of the environment - such as going for walks around Hong Kong Park or Kowloon Park. They should enjoy the landscape Hong Kong has to offer; it's up there with the best in the world. At the moment, there are no large-scale citizen-science programmes. One potential model might be the UK's Butterfly Monitoring Scheme - people go out and record butterflies across a fixed route about once a week and give the results to professionals for conservation management. We run a couple of projects with the Earthwatch Institute, but these are only for HSBC employees at the moment, because of the bank's sponsorship. I'd like to run more projects, and we are open to funding from sponsors who want to help conserve Hong Kong's environment. The government pushes people to shop, shop, shop, and just thinks concrete, concrete, concrete, but that's not what Hong Kong is about. If we lose the country parks to property developers, then we've lost the plot. The parks are our green lungs and we are morally obliged to conserve them.