THE World Wide Fund for Nature hopes to raise at least $1.6 million through this year's Big Bird Race and will use the cash to enhance its educational programmes and management at Mai Po. The Mai Po nature reserve contains large areas of mangrove swamp and provides a vital habitat for more than 260 species of birds and other animals like leopards and civet cats. Seventeen teams of four bird-watchers will join the race around the territory to record as many different types of birds as possible on Friday and Saturday. Each team is supported with a corporate sponsorship of at least $40,000 and donations from individuals. According to the WWF, the winning team usually sees 150 species. ''With the Big Bird Race, we have the funds to continue to provide an easily accessible wilderness at Mai Po with the daily spectacle of thousands of wild birds,'' said the WWF's chairman, Sir David Akers-Jones.