Butterflies on the edge as humans move in
The butterfly population at a reserve in Tai Po has shrunk by up to 60 per cent since 2009 when a massive housing development started nearby, a conservation group claims.
But the decline is just part of a larger problem at major butterfly habitats in Hong Kong that are under threat from development and excessive human disturbance, according to the Tai Po Environmental Association, which carries out regular inspections.
Only four of 10 major habitats - Yung Shue O, Luk Keng, Ho Sheung Heung, and Hoi Ha - are still largely intact, while six in Tuen Mun, Lantau and Tai Po face serious or mild degrees of degradation, the association says.
One of the six is the Fung Yuen site, which is of special scientific interest. The number of butterflies recorded there in June had fallen 40 per cent to 146, compared to 242 in 2009. The numbers seen in April and May were down 60 and 57 per cent compared with three years ago.
The association, which has run the government-sponsored butterfly reserve over a two-hectare private site in Fung Yuen since 2005, blames the decline on a housing development owned by Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong.
The first phase involves eight blocks of 17 to 28 storeys being built just 50 metres from the boundary of Fung Yuen.
The project has resulted in the destruction of vegetation that provides feed for butterflies.
'The pollution brought by the development after its completion, such as water contamination and light pollution, will also affect substantially the number of butterflies in Fung Yuen,' said Yau Wing-kwong, chief executive of the association.
Yau said another Tai Po butterfly haven at Sha Lo Tung was also under threat from development, an increase in visitors, illegal paint ball games and a proposal to construct niches for 60,000 urns at the site.
The Sha Lo Tung development is a partnership project under the government's conservation policy that aims to preserve the ecological importance of the area while allowing limited private development to fund conservation.
In addition to Sha Lo Tung, Yau said butterfly habitats in She Shan Tai Po, Shan Liu in Sai Kung, and Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun were also threatened by the removal of vegetation and changing land use.