Three Green Turtles Returned to Sea

The AFCD released three green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the southern waters of Hong Kong on July 27.

One of the turtles was seized by the AFCD in an operation, while the other two were rescued in the waters near Sha Tau Kok and Siu Sai Wan, respectively. The three green turtles were accommodated temporarily at Ocean Park where they were assessed by veterinarians and kept under constant monitoring and veterinary care.

Photo shows one of the green turtles, earlier rescued in the waters near Siu Sai Wan, being released to the sea. (Photo from the AFCD Press Release)
Photo shows one of the green turtles, confiscated by the AFCD in an enforcement operation earlier, being released to the sea. (Photo from the AFCD Press Release)
Photo shows one of the green turtles, earlier rescued in the waters near Sha Tau Kok, being released to the sea. (Photo from the AFCD Press Release)

The three turtles released weighed 10 kg, 11 kg and 93kg respectively, and their shell lengths were 43 cm, 45 cm and 92 cm. All of them were assessed by veterinarians as being in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea.

Before the green turtles were released to the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to their shells. By tracking the movement and feeding grounds of green turtles in the sea, the AFCD will collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of green turtles through concerted efforts.

If you see any sea turtles or suspected irregularities involving sea turtles you should call the AFCD via 1823.

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Hong Kong Underwater Photo Competition Winners 2017 Announced

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition 2017 jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Hong Kong Underwater Association, announced its winning entries.

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition, in its 6th year now, received 436 entries this year, featuring marine ecology, habitats and marine life in Hong Kong waters.

An AFCD spokesman said, “Entries over the years have showcased the beauty of marine life and habitats in Hong Kong waters, and have helped promote the conservation of the marine environment.”

The event comprised a photo competition and a video competition. There were two categories in the photo competition, namely the Macro and Close-up Category and the Standard and Wide Angle Category. In addition to prizes for champions and runners-up in each group, there were Special Prizes for Junior Underwater Photographers presented by the judging panel to encourage less experienced underwater photographers to participate in the competition.

Please click the thumbnail images to enlarge.

Ten Green Sea Turtles Returned to The Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released 10 green turtles seized in an earlier enforcement action in the southern waters of Hong Kong on Monday (November 15). 

The 10 green turtles are among the 35 green turtles and one hawksbill turtle seized from a fish raft in Sok Kwu Wan Fish Culture Zone on September 30. The turtles were assessed by vets at Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) and have been looked after there with constant monitoring and veterinary care.

 An AFCD spokesman said, “This is the largest batch sent to OPHK since it started helping to provide care for rescued sea turtles. The department is thankful to OPHK for making special arrangement to accommodate the sea turtles and the veterinarians and staff for taking care of them.”

The 10 green turtles weighed from 9.6 kilograms to 23kg and measured about 45 centimetres to 61cm in shell length. All of them were considered to be in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea. The AFCD will continue to work together with OPHK on the other turtles seized in the operation and release them in batches later according to their health condition and the weather.

A green sea turtle being fitted with tracking devices

Before the turtles were released to the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to the carapaces of some of the turtles. By tracking the movement and feeding grounds of green turtles in the sea, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of sea turtles.

Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via 1823. 

Hong Kong Underwater Photo Competition Winners 2016 Announced

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition 2016, jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and Hong Kong Underwater Association, announced its winning entries.

The Hong Kong Underwater Photo and Video Competition, in its 5th year now, received 443 entries this year, featuring marine ecology, habitats and marine life in Hong Kong waters.

An AFCD spokesman said, “Entries over the years have showcased the beauty of marine life and habitats in Hong Kong waters, and have helped promote the conservation of the marine environment.”

The event comprised a photo competition and a video competition. In the photo competition the categories were Macros/Close-ups and Standard/Wide Angle. In addition to prizes for champions and runners-up in each group, there were Special Prizes for Junior Underwater Photographers presented by the judging panel to encourage less experienced underwater photographers to participate in the competition.

Please click the thumbnail images to enlarge.

The winning photos as well as the video entries can also be found on the AFCD Chinese page for the competition and the competitions Facebook page.

Two Green Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released two juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday (September 21).
The turtles were found by members of the public at the Ma Wan Public Pier and Victoria Harbour in September 2013 and July this year. After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) for veterinary assessment and have since been looked after at OPHK.
They weighed 8.4 kilograms and 26kg and measured about 42 and 60 cm in shell length. Both were in good condition, indicating that they were ready to be returned to sea. 

Before the release into the sea, the AFCD tagged them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification and attached satellite transmitters to their shells. Tracking their movements and feeding grounds provides the AFCD with valuable data to formulate appropriate conservation measures and it can then share its findings with other conservation authorities for better conservation of sea turtles.
Green sea turtles are a globally endangered species. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department by calling 1823 to help protect them. 

In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). Of the five sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters, the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally. 

Marine Refuse Study Report Released

Since the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) and extension of the sewerage programmes to cover 93% of the population, marine water quality in Hong Kong has been improving since 2002. Compliance with the Water Quality Objectives for Victoria Harbour improved from 50% in 2001 to 77% in 2014. The water quality of the Harbour will further improve after the full implementation of the HATS Stage 2A later this year. To further reduce marine refuse, the Working Group on Clean Shorelines conducted the Marine Refuse Study.

The report says that more than 95% of marine refuse originates from local sources. And 80% of this locally generated waste comes from land-based sources – especially from shoreline and recreational activities – the result of littering and poor awareness by members of the community.

Of the non-natural waste more than 70% was made upo of plastic and foam plastic items. Non-local refuse (identified via its simplified Chinese character labels) made up less than 5% of the marine refuse collected.

THE EPD is looking at a three-pronged strategy to address the local marine refuse problem:

  • reducing overall waste generation at source
  • reducing the amount of refuse entering the marine environment
  • removing the marine refuse.

The five key measures devised to implement the strategy are:

  • publicity campaigns and education activities
  • support measures
  • facilities to reduce refuse entering the marine environment
  • stepped-up efforts to remove marine refuse
  • engaging the public to report marine littering and refuse problemsThe report also shows that the prevailing wind direction has a marked effect on refuse accumulation, particularly in the Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Southern and Islands Districts. It identifies 27 priority sites prone to refuse accumulation where cleaning frequency will be increased.

The EPD will also launch a monthly Shorelines Cleanup Day with schools and community groups as co-organisers.

(The full report is available at www.epd.gov.hk/epd/clean_shorelines)

Saltwater Crocodiles, Local Celebrity and the HK Wetland Park

Did you know that large, man-eating crocodiles used to roam throughout across coastal southern China? Historical records indicate they ranged from Vietnam all the way up to the lower Minjiang River in present day Fujian province and even to the Penghu Islands of Taiwan. As you might have guessed that range also includes the lower Pearl River and present day Hong Kong and Macau.

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Pui Pui-Hong Kong Reptilian Celebrity

On the 2nd of November 2003 a saltwater crocodile was spotted in the Shan Pui River (山貝河) near Yuen Long and caused a media frenzy in HK. For several weeks Australian crocodile hunter John Lever tried unsuccessful to capture it and months of effort on the part of mainland Chinese experts also failed. Finally almost 7 months later on the 10th of June 2004 Hong Kong’s own AFCD’s conservation officers captured the crocodile after it wandered into a trap laid by the department. The 4-year old female crocodile’s measured 1.5m and weighed 14 kg and belonged the species Crocodylus porosus – the Saltwater crocodile or saltie. That is the same species that frequently makes headlines for killing humans (mostly tourists that ignore the eagerly advice) in Australia’s Northern Territory! Saltwater crocodile is one of the largest reptiles in the world. A mature male can reach 6 to 7 metres in length whereas female can reach 2.5 to 3 metres. Young saltwater crocodile feeds on insects, amphibians, small reptiles and fishes. Adults  feed on large animals like buffalo! Wild saltwater crocodile is widely distributed throughout Asian Pacific from coastal India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia to Northwest Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The current and historical ranges of saltwater crocodiles in SE Asia
The current and historical ranges of saltwater crocodiles in SE Asia (green=current, orange=extirpated (historical)).

By August 2004 a public naming competition was held before the animal was named “Pui Pui”. “Pui Pui” is a transliteration of the Chinese characters 貝貝 in the crocodile’s Chinese name, which is a pun indicating that it came from Shan Pui River and is the apple of the public’s eye. Although no one knows where the crocodile came from, it is suspected that she might be an illegal pet escaped from their owner’s home or was dumped into the river after she had grown too big.

Saltwater Crocodiles in China?

Records of saltwater crocodiles in China come primarily from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) through to Song Dynasty (960 AD – 1279 AD); during this time period large crocodiles (presumably saltwater crocodiles) apparently preyed on both humans and livestock within the region. But the saltwater crocodile population decreased severely following the Song Dynasty.

The Chinese words/characters jiao or jiaolong anciently named a four-legged water dragon creature which may be identified as both “alligator” and “crocodile” . The “Dragons and Snakes” section of the (1578 CE) Bencao Gangmu – an ancient Chinese Medical Textbook – differentiates between a jiaolong (蛟龍) “Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)” and tolong (鼉龍) “Chinese Alligator, (Alligator sinensis)“. Most early references describe the jiaolong as living in rivers – which fits both “Chinese alligator” and “Saltwater crocodile” – and spending the tropical wet season in freshwater rivers and swamps. Comparing maximum lengths of 8 meters and 1.5 meters for this crocodile and alligator, respectively, “Saltwater crocodile” seems more consistent with descriptions of jiao dragons reaching lengths of several zhang (丈)”- (1 zhang = approximately 3.3 meters)”. Early texts often mention capturing jiao. For example the (ca. 111 CE) Hanshu records the catching of a jiao 蛟 in 106 BCE. So these may be historical but cryptic references to Saltwater Crocodiles in China. Jialong, incidentally, is also the name of China’s deep-sea submersible.

Nine-Dragons1

The most recent records of the saltwater crocodile within China comes from a record in Guangxi province from the 19th Century and some bone fragments found in Hong Kong in 1922. Although I tried my best to find any information on the 1922 bone fragments, it turned up nothing (if anyone has any information on this and can help, please leave a comment!). It appears likely that the species became extinct in all of China well over a century ago and already dissapeared from most of its Chinese habitat many centuries ago. A sharp increase in the human population in the region about 600 years ago and the widespread destruction of habitat that followed is likely to blame for their disappearance.

But Pui Pui was by no means the last appearance of a large crocodilian in Hong Kong:

  • In 2012 , a 1.2-meter-long crocodile was found abandoned in an aquarium at a refuse-collection station in Tai Po. This was a abandoned pet, though.
  • In 2014 a man living along the coastal Siu Lam area in Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun district said he spotted a five-foot-long crocodile at the waters near his villa but unfortunately he could not get his camera in time and later searches by the police failed to find the animal. A cleaning worker whom the police spoke to also said that a security guard told her that a crocodile-like creature appeared at the beach by the housing estate two days earlier, but it was gone when both of them went to check.  As a result several public beaches including Golden Beach, Cafeteria Old Beach and Castle Peak Beach were temporarily shut.
What happened to Pui Pui?

Three days after its capture the crocodile was moved to Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG) where it had access to open-air enclosures, ponds, shelters and natural settings that were more suitable for healthy growth and where vets could monitor it. It then spent the first 3 months in quarantine before moving it into an open-air enclosure. Initially it refused to eat.

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In 2006 Pui Pui was moved again to the newly built Hong Kong Wetlands Park in Tin Shui Wai. There she has a 72-square-metre outdoor enclosure with pool area, landscaped and equipped with infra-red heaters, heat pads and a weighing scale.
The general public got its first glimpse of Pui Pui exploring its outdoor enclosure in the Hong Kong Wetland Park in September 2006. At that time Pui Pui had grown to 1.75 m I. Length and 19.5 kg in weight. Now Pui Pui is about 15 years old, and according to the latest information (February 2015) from the AFCD it now measures 2.46 m in length and weights about 58.5 kg! You can see her for yourself at the HK Wetlands Park where she will be likely basking in the sun or feeding on fresh fish and chicken.

Pui Pui's Home at the HK Wetland Park
Pui Pui’s Home at the HK Wetland Park
Pui Pui’s Fame

In December 2004 Alan Jefferies and Liang Yue wrote a bilingual children’s book based on Pui Pui’s story called “The Crocodile Who Wanted To Be Famous” with illustrations by Mariko Jesse. The story is about a television-loving crocodile named Crafty that swims from his riverside village to find fame in the big city. His arrival is front-page news all around the world, but once there, he begins to question what he really wants.

The Crocodile Who Wanted To Be Famous by Alan Jefferies, illustrated by Mariko Jessse, translated by Liang Yue
The Crocodile Who Wanted To Be Famous by Alan Jefferies, illustrated by Mariko Jessse, translated by Liang Yue