Mai Po reopens to bird fanciers as kuk offers golden chickens
New Territories villagers, denied compensation by the government for poultry they surrendered when it banned backyard poultry, have been offered a $500 gold figurine of a chicken for every live bird they handed over.
The Heung Yee Kuk said it had made the offer to thank the villagers for their co-operation.
Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the New Territories advisory body, said 18 families, who between them had surrendered 240 birds, had come forward to claim the figurines.
The government has refused to pay compensation to villagers affected by the ban, introduced on February 13 as part of measures to combat bird flu.
Speaking after the land-granting ceremony for the kuk's new headquarters at Ma On Shan, Mr Lau said Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok had written to him to thank the kuk for its efforts to explain the ban to the villagers.
Mr Lau said the gesture might have been belated, but was still a welcome sign from the government.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said that since the ban came into effect, more than 4,800 live birds had been seized - more than 90 per cent from unauthorised poultry farms. This was on top of the 730 live birds surrendered to the authorities before the ban took effect.
The department said it was still processing 200 applications for licences from those who wished to keep poultry as pets. It did not say if any had been approved.
Meanwhile, the Mai Po Nature Reserve was reopened to birdwatchers yesterday, 70 days after it was ordered by the government to close amid the bird flu scare.
Conservation body WWF Hong Kong, which operates the reserve, repeated its demand that the government explain clearly under what conditions Mai Po must close in the future.
The decision to reopen the reserve was announced without warning on Wednesday.
Penfold Park at Sha Tin and other parks housing wild birds that are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department also reopened to the public yesterday.