Call to place a cocoon around butterfly havens

Beauty spots found to be teeming with rare species have been left unprotected from developers, say environmental campaigners

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 3:55am

Three of Hong Kong's most important butterfly breeding grounds may be under threat from development as they are not protected by any outline zoning plan, an environment group has warned.

Some 40 per cent of the city's 260 or so butterfly species can be found in Pak Sha O and Lai Chi Chong in Sai Kung, while 15 per cent can be found fluttering about Lok Ma Chau, in a part of the restricted frontier area that will be opened up from Monday.

Green Power has spent the last three months surveying the areas.

Pak Sha O and Lai Chi Chong, both villages tucked within Sai Kung Country Park, cover 49 hectares that are home to 97 butterfly species, including 11 species that are rare in Hong Kong, including the Small Yellow Sailer and the Constable.

"The area is naturally a breeding ground for butterflies with its unique woodland and freshwater wetlands, providing a much diversified environment for different species of butterflies to grow," said Matthew Sin Ka-wah, senior environmental affairs manager of Green Power.

Pak Sha O is a 100-year-old village built by the Hakka, the original inhabitants of Hong Kong, and now home to many expatriate families. The ancestral home of the Ho family, who moved out in the '70s, is listed as a grade one historical building.

However, part of Pak Sha O was destroyed by a development project late last year which saw some of the woodlands cleared. The area was then zoned under a draft development plan for "unspecified use".

Lai Chi Chong - only three kilometres away - is not protected by any statutory land planning. Sin wants to see the two areas protected as a whole as the habitats are so close together and the butterflies may move between the two.

Green Power recorded 39 species of butterfly in the 710-hectare area between the Lok Ma Chau border crossing and the Ng Tung River. They included a few rare species such as Pale Palm Dart and the Dark Swift.

Sin said: "The reduction of the closed area is expected to lead to rapid development. The rate of human destruction of the natural habitats would inevitably increase."

A spokeswoman for the Planning Department said an outline zoning plan was being drawn up covering the Sai Kung villages in which information from green groups would be taken into account, and meanwhile an interim draft plan aimed to keep development at bay.

An outline zoning plan was also being prepared for Lok Ma Chau.