Lessons on life and how to protect it

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2011, 12:00am


Students from Pok Oi Hospital Chan Kai Memorial College got a unique opportunity to rear an endangered species when crabs came into class. It was the first time such a project has been run in local schools.

The college is one of 10 schools that took part in the Horseshoe Crab Rearing Programme launched by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong in 2009.

'The programme aimed to raise awareness and inspire the public to support the conservation of horseshoe crabs and their natural habitats,' said the foundation's deputy director, Timothy Ng Sau-kin.

According to a City University survey, the horseshoe crab population in Hong Kong shrank by 90 per cent between 2002 and 2009 due to habitat destruction caused by human activity.

In January 2010 the students were given 50 juvenile crabs at the second stage of their development, when they were just one centimetre in diameter. From there, they learned how to take care of the crabs and how to carry out surveys including tagging them with microchips.

'I had never seen these crabs before,' said Morgan Ip Tsun-man. 'When they arrived, they were as tiny as green peas. I wanted to understand the history of these little creatures called living fossils.'

Dr Paul Shin Kam-shing, associate professor at City University's biology and chemistry department, said the crabs were one of the oldest species on Earth. 'Horseshoe crabs have undergone little evolutionary change over 400 million years,' he said. The students had to carry out various daily tasks for their crabs.

'Every morning, we had to feed and weigh the crabs,' said Rachel Hui Chung-man.

Woody Mau Kai-yin said: 'We also had to make sure the water was very clean and had the right salinity or they would die.'

The college's vice-principal and biology panel head Ricky Cheung Hon-fai, who supervised the project, said it allowed the children to experience how scientists worked and conducted surveys.

All the horseshoe crabs raised by the 10 schools were released into the wetland in Ha Pak Nai yesterday. Researchers will check on their condition over the next few months.