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Protecting Mongolia’s Endangered Marmots
 

The Mongolian marmot is a species of rodent that is primarily found in Mongolia, but can also be located in certain parts of Russia and China. The species has faced an extended period of decline and was listed as endangered by the IUCN in 2008. This decline has been the result of human exploitation in the form of hunting for food, fur, and sport, as well as disease.
 
To better protect the species in Mongolia, the Conservation Research and Education Center, funded by OPCFHK, conducted a field survey in the Choibalsan soum (district) in Dornod aimag (province), which focused on determining the number of marmots and their burrows across three sites. Taking place from September 2019 to August 2020, the research project set out to create a new local protected area spanning 150,000 hectares for long term conservation, in addition to educating local communities to help protect the marmot species. 

After surveying three sites in the territory of Sumber and Enger shand bag (administrative unit), namely Yamaat bulag, Hiidiin tuuri, and Bumban uhaa, a total of 74 Mongolian marmots from 22 family groups were counted. These locations were carefully selected after liaising with local herders and soum officials, who had a good understanding of where the marmots were located. The researchers were able to produce key information regarding the number of burrows and density, marmot population, and a map of their location. These findings were also facilitated by using drone and transect surveys to count the number of burrows.

 
In order to enhance community engagement and gain support from local herders, 50 households were also selected to participate in a conservation-related questionnaire. The results found that 92% of the respondents did not agree with local mining, and 72% supported the local conservation of land.

Two areas covering a total of 147,142.72 hectares have now been selected for local protection by the Self-Governing Body (local Parliament) of Choibalsan soum in Dornod aimag. A map specifying the conservation areas was produced, agreed upon, and submitted to the soum governor for authorization. Furthermore, a total of 132 herders and soum officials have received training in marmot conservation, of which focuses on monitoring, population and distribution, protected areas, pasture offset methodology, and carbon finance. The project also developed a handbook to guide and facilitate their training needs for future conservation efforts.

The abundance and population distribution of juvenile horseshoe crabs surveys

Since 2014, the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) has been surveying the abundance and population distribution of juvenile horseshoe crabs in the field. These surveys are mainly performed by OPCFHK's education officers at the nursing grounds of juvenile horseshoe crabs, most of which are located in intertidal zones including mudflats and mangroves. The purpose of the survey is to document the abundance and population distribution of juvenile horseshoe crabs on their spawning and nursery grounds in Hong Kong, so as to compare the changes in population over time. At the beginning of the project, we conducted surveys in 17 mudflats in Hong Kong, including Ha Pak Nai, Pui O, Shui Hau, and Tsim Bei Tsui. We discovered that 60% of Hong Kong’s juvenile Chinese horseshoe crabs can be located in Pak Nai and Ha Pak Nai, and 35% of juvenile Mangrove horseshoe crabs can be found in Sha Tau Kok.
 
Throughout the years of investigation, OPCFHK has found the disappearance of juvenile horseshoe crabs from several survey sites. Therefore, since 2019, we have concentrated our investigations on five locations, namely Pak Nai, Ha Pak Nai, Shui Hau Wan, Sha Tau Kok, and Tung Chung Bay, which has been supported by student surveyors. The results show that the number of horseshoe crabs at these sites are facing various levels of decline, and the situation at Shui Hau Wan is particularly worrying, with the number dropping from double digits in earlier years to single digits. This might also be linked to the clam digging activities of recent years.
 
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species listed the Chinese horseshoe crab as an endangered species in 2019, but the status of the Mangrove horseshoe crab still awaits more data collection.

The species census is a fundamental part of the biodiversity survey. Based on the collected data, we can suggest further comprehensive surveys and assessments to establish a biodiversity monitoring network system. Meanwhile, this project enables participating students to increase their knowledge of the species and thus contribute to the conservation of wildlife and their habitats.

Hong Kong’s Surge in Plastic Waste Amid COVID-19

During the pandemic, many citizens and businesses have changed their dining styles by turning to takeaway services instead. This has helped to lower the spread of the virus and has become the new normal for Hong Kong. However, due to these circumstances, the amount of plastic waste has significantly increased. A recent survey found  that around 13.5 million takeaway purchases were made each week by Hong Kong citizens before the pandemic, but the number rose by 56 percent to 21.1 million during the pandemic.  According to the survey findings, it is estimated that Hong Kong people consumed over 101.8 billion pieces of disposable plastic each week during the pandemic, including plastic straws, plastic tableware, disposable plastic utensils, and plastic take-out bags, which is 2.2 times the number of similar surveys in 2019. This demonstrates a sharp rise in the use of plastic products in Hong Kong during the pandemic, exacerbating the plastic pollution problem. Using disposable plastic straws, tableware, and containers seems convenient, but these single-use plastics take hundreds of years to degrade into microplastics, which could then be ingested by plankton – at the base of the marine food chain – as well as other marine life such as seagulls, fish, turtles, and whales. Studies have shown that microplastics adversely affect the growth and reproduction of marine organisms. Therefore, we invite you to lend a helping hand to these wild animals and make a donation to support the "Conservation Hero Support Programme".
 
Through a one-off or monthly online donation of as little as HKD3.30 per day, you can support your chosen topic of conservation and your favourite animal ambassador (including the Little Meerkat, the Giant Tortoise, the Papuan Penguin, the Spotted Seal, or the Two-toed Sloth). Donations will be used to fund research projects in Asia and the Local Marine Life Stranding Response programme.
 
 Donation Link: https://www.opcf.org.hk/en/conservation-hero-support-programme

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