Rare birds in wetlands hit record

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2000, 12:00am

A record number of black-faced spoonbills have been counted at Mai Po and the Inner Deep Bay wetlands this year.

The World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong releases its spoonbill figures today to mark World Wetlands Day.

The conservation group counted 178 spoonbills in Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay, up from 153 last year.

One of the rare birds was killed recently when it swallowed a trapper's hook.

There are only about 700 black-faced spoonbills in the world and nearly a quarter migrate to Mai Po for the winter.

But more spoonbills in Mai Po might not bode well for the future of the rare breed.

The wetlands might be drawing more of the birds because their other wintering grounds are shrinking, fund spokeswoman Margaret Chan said.

To celebrate World Wetlands Day, Mai Po conservationists will open the reserve to a group of students to encourage children to become more involved in environmental protection and educate them about the loss of the habitat.

Wetlands, marshes, lakes and other sources of freshwater are being increasingly converted to agricultural, housing and industrial uses.

Wetlands cover about six per cent of the Earth's surface, but half has already been lost to urban and agricultural expansion, according to a fund report.

Over the past year, the conservation group has worked towards pressuring governments worldwide to preserve wetlands and 2.6 million extra hectares are now under protection.