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Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK) has been supporting the research projects on Asian wildlife conservation for many years, this year pledging over HK$3.43 million to support 13 new studies. The selected projects involve more than 30 species with urgent conservation needs in eight Asian countries and regions, all of which focus on marine conservation and combating illegal trading of threatened species. Hong Kong-led projects include a first-of-its-kind computer programme for automated facial recognition of the humphead wrasse, and a genetic-based research of dried tokay geckos.

Important Local Research Projects

Illegal wildlife trade continues to be one of the most significant threats to biodiversity globally, and this is even happening in Hong Kong at our very own doorstep. In particular, some threatened wildlife species are considered to have edible and medicinal values in the city. Conservation efforts can be misdirected if no solid evidence can be provided about a traded species’ place of origin. 

Dr Yvonne Sadovy from Science and Conservation of Fish Aggregations will be leading a study to combat the illegal trading of humphead wrasses. Her research proposes developing a computer programme for automated facial recognition which can eventually be adopted by local government departments and other countries for regulation enforcement.
Tokay geckos are frequently observed in Hong Kong’s Chinese medicine markets, the vast numbers seen might lead one to believe that the species is an infinite resource.  In reality, millions of tokay geckos are traded every year, to the point where the species was added to Annex II of CITES in 2019. Dr Timothy Bonebrake at the University of Hong Kong will conduct a research using a combination of conservation forensics tools and field work to determine the origins of market geckos and how local tokay geckos are affected by this global trade.
Professor Sung Yik-Hei – the Foundation’s USSP alumni – has led multiple research studies on local freshwater turtles since 2017. In addition to in-situ research to reduce the poaching of Beal’s eyed turtles in their natural habitat, Professor Sung has also integrated ex-situ research to create a breeding programme for the species. His reintroduction programme has since been implemented by both the Hong Kong Foundation of Herpetology and Ocean Park.

Regional Research Projects

Marine Conservation has also long been an important pillar of OPCFHK’s research funding. A regional study of Okhotsk Sea bowhead whales led by Dr Olga Shpak at The Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences will shed light on the endangered species’ seasonal distribution, in order to define a potential ‘area of conflict’ with the wider industry. This marks the first systematic survey to study their population. The survey will make use of satellite tracking to define migratory routes and winter grounds for this remarkable marine mammal.

Another separate study looking at the impact of environmental change on Chinese white dolphins in the Pearl River Estuary has examined details of pollutants found inside the dolphins and their prey fish since 2015. It has also revealed concerning information about an ageing dolphin population in the region.

Find Out More
OPCFHK has prepared a series of social media posts on the benefited species from 2020-21 Conservation Funding projects. Stay close with us to explore and learn more about their fun facts!

Sun Bear
Orangutan


Follow us on our Facebook for the latest updates, or check out #Researchandconservation for previous posts!
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