THE Mai Po marshes are vital for the preservation of some of the world's most endangered birds, an international expert has warned. The assistant director of Birdlife International, Richard Grimmet, said yesterday the Government had to act quickly to preserve the marshes and develop a preservation strategy before unlimited development inflicts irreparable damage. He called on the Government to immediately act on its obligations under the Ramsar Agreement to preserve wetlands. 'Wetlands are being lost all along the east coast of China and really must take measures to conserve Mai Po for the long term good of China,' Mr Grimmet said. He said Hong Kong and China had the fourth highest numbers of endangered bird species in the world. 'The bottom line is that wetlands in China are extremely important if we are going to protect birds worldwide and prevent avian extinction,' he said. He said wetlands in the region were also important as sources of food for fish and prawns, and as protection for farmlands from flooding, and educational and recreational potential. He said the marshes were home to 25 per cent of one of the most endangered bird species, the black-faced spoonbill. Mr Grimmet said Mai Po was 'a shining example of a nature reserve and education centre 'and one which other Asian countries were now seeking to copy'.