When bats, monkeys and pigs are all in a day's work

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am


Name Shek Chung-tong
Job Wetland and fauna conservation officer

Where did you go to school? I went to the Lee Yao Memorial Secondary School in Kwai Tsing. My favourite subjects were biology, music and mathematics.

What events in your childhood influenced your choice of career? When I was in primary school we used to picnic in Kam Shan Country Park. I remember one day a monkey came and stole our food. It was my first experience with a wild mammal in Hong Kong. I used to watch David Attenborough documentaries on the origin of life and they made me want to serve the environment.

Where did you go to university and what did you read? I went to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I did a bachelors degree in biology and a masters in marine biology.

When did you decide you wanted to be a government conservation officer? After my masters, I worked in a commercial laboratory in Australia. I decided that I wanted to work for the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department instead because they do a lot a field work. I did not want to be stuck in an office all the time. A few years ago we conducted a survey of mammals in Hong Kong, where we set up nets to catch bats and found four new species in Hong Kong. There is still so much information we don't know about our environment.

What does the job involve? I specialise in the conservation of mammals, especially wild pigs, monkeys and bats. The other day I released two monkeys which had been causing a nuisance to residents. It makes me happy to see them go back to the environment. I am also involved in environmental management of the country parks and special areas, ecological aspects of environmental impact assessment studies, and ecological surveys and research. The mammal survey was the biggest project I have worked on.

Is conservation a good career option for Hong Kong students today? Yes, conservation is an industry and it is getting bigger. We need more young people to help improve our environment and protect our future. You may not make a lot of money but it is a very satisfying job.

What has been is your biggest professional achievement? Publishing my book, A Field Guide to the Terrestrial Mammals of Hong Kong in 2006. It involved four years' field work and two years' preparation.

How do you update your skills and knowledge? It is important to get actual experience through field work. I also go overseas to participate in conferences. I went to Japan for a primate conference and I really learned a lot.

The entry requirements for the job are a first or second-class honours degree in applied or natural science.

Either three years post-graduate experience in a related field or a higher degree or post-graduate diploma in applied or natural science is also required. Candidates also have to pass the language papers, Basic Law assessment and an aptitude test for the civil service Common Recruitment Examination. Candidates must have HKCEE passes in English and Chinese.