Super-jail island's rare lizard goes to ground

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 June, 2004, 12:00am

Stray cats and dogs instead of a rare species of lizard were found on the Hei Ling Chau site of the proposed $12 billion super-jail, according to an engineering company.

The firm, Mott Connell, said in its preliminary feasibility study for the jail that no Bogadek's burrowing lizards were found on the island during three field surveys carried out earlier this year.

Terry Chung Tak-man, a consultant with the company, suspected the lizard might have migrated for the winter when they visited between February and March.

'We did not spot any lizards during the trips. Instead, we found some cats and dogs living both on Hei Ling Chau and its adjacent Sunshine Island,' he said.

'When we talked to some conservationists later, they expressed fears that the stray dogs and cats could be preying on the lizard.'

Under the super-jail plan, the woodland on the island would not be affected and most work would be carried out on 80 hectares of reclaimed land, Mr Chung said.

The lizard was discovered by Father Anthony Bogadek on the island in 1987 and confirmed as a new species in 1992. The female has no legs; the male has two legs.

Environmentalists are worried that building the super-jail would threaten the rare species which has not been seen on Hei Ling Chau for 17 years.

Apart from the island, the lizard was also seen on Sunshine Island once and three times on Shek Kwu Chau, where the latest sighting was in 2002 by conservation officers.

'The lizard likes to live in a damp environment and soil under the decomposing leaves. It was really lucky for our staff to spot one two years ago,' said Simon Chan Kin-fung, a government conservation officer.

Michael Lau Wai-neng, an amphibian expert with the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, said it was hard to say if the company had done its best to locate the lizard of which little was known.

'You can't use ordinary ways to find the lizard and you need a specialist to do the job. You also need some luck as well.'


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