Country parks plus other protected areas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 2005, 12:00am

Despite its reputation as a densely populated, high-rise city, Hong Kong is far greener than most of its residents tend to realise.

Three-quarters of the city's land mass is countryside. There are 23 country parks, five of them on Hong Kong Island, and 15 special areas, 11 of them within country parks, covering a total of 41,582 hectares.

The country parks receive more than 11 million visitors a year - mainly for activities such as hiking, barbecuing, mountain biking and camping. They contain a wide variety of flora, including native and introduced species such as the camphor tree, the slash pine and the Brisbane box, and those from the machilus and schima genera.

Species of fauna include the barking deer, macaque monkeys, wild boar, civet cats, pangolins, and Chinese porcupines and squirrels. The crow pheasant, great barbet, Chinese bulbul, the crested mynah, the spotted dove and the black-eared kite are among the bird species. There are also around 240 species of butterfly.

Conservationists say that without the parks system, urbanisation would have pushed many of these species out of Hong Kong. Lee Talbot, originator of the country parks concept in Hong Kong, says the parks face a constant threat from developers that must be resisted.

'There will always be the developers who want to cut into a piece of the park to make a short-term gain and they will always argue that this is only a few per cent of the area and look at the economic benefit,' Dr Talbot said.

'But if you look at the long-term implications to the people as a whole and the long-term benefits of keeping the country parks intact, those benefits far outweigh the short-term economic and political gain of one or two people or politicians.'