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FOLLOW UP TO LIONS NATURE EDUCATION CENTRE - SUCCESS!

FOLLOW UP TO LIONS NATURE EDUCATION CENTRE - SUCCESS!

Lilies at the visitor centre ponds! First time in almost 3 years.



Firstly I would like to congratulate Helen Hui and her hardworking team (with note to Angela Chan) at the park. Helen took over in November 2020 (about a month after I began my “engagement” with AFCD and the habitat destruction over the last two years), and she and her team have have worked wonders to restore the park to its former glory. Hats off, and credit where credit is due. Helen invited me for a site visit on Friday 23rd April, and her reasoned explanations, and proven difference in habitats have won me over (for most things). I would also point out she told me she has a background in biology…I think a “must have” for anyone managing a “nature eduction centre”.

This quote is from the Governments BSAP (Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan).

I am still hugely disappointed and frustrated that the lack of good management for two years has led to the destruction of so much habitat and the eradication of a whole generation of many pond organisms. Sorry, you simply cannot blame a faulty irrigation system for the parks many woes, which I have detailed in previous posts. And as that system was commissioned in 1990, don’t you think it should have had a better planned upkeep? The many deeply disturbing mistakes (ripping all the lotus plants out 2 years ago; the draining of the ponds for two years; killing the trellis plants, and the passion fruits etc etc etc see my video here https://youtu.be/2KIOzSm_IPw) need to be forgiven, but not forgotten. And as I am keen to point out, we must all be vigilant in our protection of nature and our wonderful environment here in Hong Kong.

So a quick update against my key points for better park management:

1. Provide suitable planning and expert supervision of any contractors contractors involved in habitat management and “cleaning”. The habitats appear to be building back well; but this is still an area of concern, both here and in the many other parks of Hong Kong. The “scorched earth” policy of simply destroying a habitat to rebuild it seems quite a common practise, which I do not see in other best practise areas (like Kadoorie Farm; or RSPB managed places in the UK).

2. Provide suitable care for the non-farm areas: such as watering. Some watering is now being carried out, but the drought exposed a lack of care. With the rainy season upon us, the watering issue should be solved. Talking about the slopes and grassy areas being left to re-wild is still an uphill struggle. There is now a plan in place for the park which Helen and her team took me through, but I still feel that the wilder areas could be more appreciated and cared for. For example, along the path leading up from the car park to the visitor centre, this used to be a wonderful avenue ablaze with flowers...now, just damaged and most plants withered. Good news: There has been replanting of the lovely Hong Kong Rose/Rhodoleia championii, so loved by many birds. The trellis has some plants growing again, but the wonderful passion fruit has been lost forever. Look at the contrast between the lush grass of the well watered arboretum (still off limits, but opening soon, rumour has it)- and the "bridal photography path" through the lychee forest. They have destroyed this once green and pleasant area. Where is the care?

3. Restore the ponds with a suitable wildlife environment: bottom soil; lilies, and other plants, and borders. Yes, yes, yes. Great work done here, with all ponds (except one, the smaller dragonfly pond) now up and replanted, or repurposed. The previous lack of care has unfortunately destroyed a whole generation or two of pond organisms (eg dragonflies), and it will take a couple of years or more to bring things back. I am interested to see how many species I can find in the LNEC bioblitz later this month.

Looking soooo much better.


4. Restore the butterfly valley with suitable grasses, flowers, and shrubs.

Clearing done, as a first step, and some new nectar plants added; still work to be done here. Other areas have also been planted with butterfly friendly plants, and the bidens/daisies are being left to grow for now.

Some blossoms, and a few butterflies. Not back to its former glory. Yet.

5. Replant the lotus and lilies in the Lotus pond, and cover the bare concrete with hibiscus shrubs, like before. Yes! finally, the Lotus are being replaced. I would have hoped to have seen these in place before April, as they are due to flower in May and they definitely need roots in place before autumn. So, fingers crossed. I hope the pond edges will also be replanted.

Lotus and lilies going in, pic taken 26th April.

6. Hedgerows: Stop replacing these with concrete posts. Stop the pulling off of vines and other worthwhile habitats from the fences. Let the vines grow up the fences. Vines have been replanted, but not really cared for. This clearly has been brought to their attention, but I hope that the message is retained by the cleaning staff.

7. Get rid of most - if not all - of the plastic fencing that is such an eyesore, and not part of any nature education I know of. Close the gates and keep the boars out.

Too many boars. Too many invasive species. This really needs a clear programme to help our local habitat thrive. Pussy-footing around this just means more damage to our local environment.

8. Keep the “net-house” and restore it to its former glory. Re-instate the Birdwing Butterfly plant, and let this endangered species thrive again, as a model for the park. Nope, the birdwing is not coming back. Boooooo (it eats too much!). But the net-house will remain open with “some” butterflies. Yaaaaaay. I hope that they can reconsider the birdwing issue, with a trellis outside.

9. Let the grasses grown in suitable “wild areas”, like in the fragrance garden, or on the slopes in the park. See point 2. Perhaps they can follow the initiative in China and in particular Beijing with their WILD PARK initiative - which also follows the BSAP: Leave a significant portion of the park to be ‘wild’, meaning that the grass and other plants would be allowed to grow without being cut, leaves allowed to drop and decompose, providing shelter for insects and a basis for other wildlife to thrive. If signs and other information were erected, the initiative would serve as a positive addition by educating the public about nature. Your park could partner with a local school or schools – citizen scientists – who could be responsible for monitoring the wildlife in the parks and comparing the ‘wild’ areas with those managed in the traditional way. Subject to the results, consideration could be given to expanding the percentage allowed to be “wild”. Potential benefits: – More and better habitat for wildlife in LNEC

– Students at local schools become citizen scientists – Public engagement on the role of parks in providing homes for wildlife in cities – Fewer resources needed for park management

Lastly,

I have a biodiversity monitoring plan, ongoing, with now the LNEC BioBlitz #2. This will be the second Bio-Blitz at this once lovely park; and with pond restoration and seasonal blooms and bugs, we hope to make a valuable record of wildlife and animals. The idea is to map this data with a)previous data, to hopefully show some improvement and b)what we would expect to see that this time (for example at least 20 of the 31 species of dragonflies recorded here; or 122 species of butterfly; with 707 species of insect)

. This is a communal citizen-science effort to record as many species (in our case using iNaturalist App and our smartphones/mobile devices), within a designated location (Lions Nature Education Centre/LNEC in SaiKung) within a defined time period in 2021.

For more information please see https://www.facebook.com/events/2750985468547100