[PRESS RELEASE] Green groups condemn the inappropriate tree trimming works by LCSD and urge AFCD for immediate investigation and enforcement

(16 June 2017) 15 green groups jointly express their shock, disappointment and anger on the destruction of the nesting colony of egrets and herons by the LCSD tree team at Tai Po Market egretry on 6 June which has led to at least 16 birds dead and further 10 birds rescued and taken into care.They consider there is clear evidence that the birds and nests were wilfully disturbed and thus urge the AFCD to fully investigate the case and carry out enforcement actions if any party is guilty of having contravened the Wild Animal Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170). The groups protested at the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices this morning and handed in the joint letter together with some public comments to a representative of AFCD.

Ms. Woo Ming Chuan, conservation officer of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, said, “The purpose of this joint green groups action is neither to direct the focus of the public to AFCD nor to let LCSD get away from the incident, but rather to clearly indicate the seriousness of the issue. This is about violating Cap.170 or not, we therefore urge AFCD to carry out investigation and LCSD should not escape from this issue. On one hand, we green groups appreciate the prompt actions and efforts made by AFCD in the rescue of fallen birds, monitoring of the egretry and negotiation with LCSD after the incident, and we thank them for their hard work. However, on the other hand, we are disappointed that AFCD has not yet stated if there was any violation of Cap.170 or if any prosecution will be made.”

At the time of the incident, LCSD staff were informed of the adverse impacts of their actions on birds and their nests, and were asked by a member of the public to stop, but they ignored the concern and carried on. The large number of birds and nests present was very obvious to on-lookers and it is simply not believable that LCSD staff did not notice the birds. By 15 June 2017, a total of 26 birds have been sent to the Wild Animal Rescue Centre of the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden for rescue and rehabilitation. Among them, 16 died while 10 are still under intensive treatment and care. However, the number of casualties should be higher as dead birds found at the site of the incident were not sent to KFBG.

Ms. Woo continued, “Proper enforcement plays a critical role in deterrence of future incidents. As the authority responsible for enforcing this ordinance, AFCD should have the responsibility to fully investigate and follow-up, and to carry out enforcement actions and prosecution for any offence against the ordinance. We consider that it is a serious default and would lead to a great public disappointment and distrust if case was not fully investigated and brought to a fair and transparent conclusion. The groups consider that not pursuing this case also undermines the mission and vision of AFCD and the Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which is to conserve and protect the city’s natural environment and biodiversity. They urge AFCD to give a prompt and clear explanation concerning the investigation and the prosecution process.”

Ms. Kami Hui, conservation manager of The Conservancy Association, said, “the poor tree trimming method in this incident not only damaged the health and structure of the trees, but also affected the stability of the remaining nests on the trees and increased the risk of more nests and the birds falling. As such, we would like to urge the Development Bureau and related department(s) to review and improve the current tree trimming procedures and system by including elements related to the protection of wildlife, and have adequate professional supervision to ensure the quality of their work in order to ensure similar incidents do not happen again.”

Besides the prosecution actions, the groups advised AFCD and and corresponding departments/ bureaux (including Development Bureau, Environment Bureau, Home Affairs Bureau and related works departments) should consider developing new internal government guideline(s) so as to avoid future destruction threats to bird species and their nests caused by tree trimming or other construction works. Reference can be made to the “Guidelines for Planning and Carrying out Construction Works at Egretries” published by The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society last year which were developed following extensive consultation with representatives of several relevant departments, ecological consultants and the private sector.

Green groups joint letter to AFCD, please see:http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/viewthread.php?tid=26505

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