- March 3 is the United Nations’ day to celebrate and raise awareness of wild animals and plants
- We look at some of the city’s rarest flora and fauna, and why they face extinction
March 3 is the United Nation’s World Wildlife Day.
This year, the theme is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”. The aim is to highlight how important forests and their species are for humans.
But every year, it is a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. It is a day to think about the rare and endangered species which are at risk because of human behaviour.
You know how rare Chinese white dolphins are, and how we need to protect pangolins. But what about other at-risk species?
Here are seven of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable species you should know about.
This tiny crab is at risk of disappearing due to construction. Photo: Paul LeaderThis endangered crab species lives in fresh water, such as streams and rivers. It is threatened by chemicals running into those water sources, and also building.
Also, their habitat is threatened by construction development. The crabs made the news in 2019 when a fairly large group was found at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. The government plans to build flats on the land in a few years’ time, and nature experts are worried the crabs will die.
Chinese bahaba (Bahaba taipingensis )
The fish can grow up to 2 metres long. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan MaThis fish is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “critically endangered”. It can grow up to two metres long, and weigh as much as 100 kilograms.
Also known as the giant yellow croaker, it has been overfished in the region because its maw, or swim bladder, is a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Strangely, although it is officially protected in mainland China, it has no such protection in Hong Kong.
Three-spot or flat-faced seahorse (Hippocampus trimaculatus)
This creature is one of the most widely traded in the worldWhile this species is classed as “vulnerable”, and not yet “endangered”, its numbers are decreasing. International data show it is one of the most widely traded species in the world. Seahorses are a popular ingredient in TCM.
They are also at risk due to destruction of their habitat and pollution.
Hong Kong cascade frog (Amolops hongkongensis )
The frog is named for its preferred place to lay eggs! Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Wetland ParkYou might have heard of the endangered Romer’s tree frog, a species that only lives in Hong Kong. A group of the frogs was rescued from Lantau before Chek Lap Kok airport was built, and bred successfully.
But the city has another endangered frog, the torrent or cascade frog. It got its name because it lives mainly in mountain streams, and lays its spawn in waterfalls.
Black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor)
This close-up makes the reason for bird's name obvious. Photo: Owen Chiang / HKBWSThis bird only breeds on some little islands off the west coast of North Korea and South Korea, but likes to spend its winters somewhere warmer – including Hong Kong.
It is endangered, but thanks to its protected status, its numbers seem to be increasing. In 2020, 4,864 were recorded around the world, a 9 per cent increase on the previous year. (Sadly, it appears fewer birds are coming to our city. While 361 of the 4,864 were spotted in Hong Kong’s Deep Bay, this was a decrease of 5.7 per cent on the previous year.)
Hong Kong grouper (Epinephelus akaara)
These big fish take up to three years to reach maturity. Photo: Eco-Education and Resources Centre and Green PowerThese big fish take a long time to become adults – as much as three years. So when they are fished before they reach maturity, it means they can’t reproduce, and so have become endangered, and their population in the wild is decreasing.
It probably won’t die out completely, as it is bred on farms, but it’s not great news.
The Camellia granthamiana has flowers as big as your headIt’s not just animals, or “fauna” that are in danger – some of Hong Kong’s flora, or flowers and plants, need protection, too.
First discovered on Tai Mo Shan in 1955 – a single plant – this flower is valued as a decoration, so people often cut them down to sell. It can grow up to 8 metres tall, and the flowers can be about 15cm in diameter.