Reply To: Hong Kong Wetland Park – wise use of money??


I emailed the above letter and link to article to 4 people I’d discussed the park with in 2004 (three email addresses no longer working), including Mr. Edmond Lam, General Manager of the Wetland Park.

Edmond replied:

You may wish to know the following for your information.

(a) the percentage of overseas visitors (including Mainland China visitors) to HKWP in the second year of operation is about 20%;

(b) the HKWP has organized over 8000 educational activities to over 280,000 students and the public ;

(c) the HKWP has recorded over 210 species of birds (including ducks, waders, egrets and the globally endangered Black Faced Spoonbill), 40 species of dragonflies, 130 species of butterflies and other wildlife up to end of 2007; and

(d) Although the “Shark Fin Soup” provided by the Cafe de Coral for afternoon tea set at the HKWP is a Japanese analogue, Cafe de Coral has already removed it from the menu in their restaurant at the HKWP upon our advise.

I responded:

Thanks for this info.

Doesn’t address my main points.
No indication you are working on ecotourism to benefit the area; nor on making the park at all integrated with Deep Bay.

I’d hope there is some sense of shame re woefully misspent money, coupled with strong efforts to spend some more money wisely, as per Ramsar; but doubtful – that’s not the way with HK, or indeed with govt spending in many places!

reply from Edmond Lam:

lease be advised that the HKWP maintained regular liaison with stakeholders in tourism industry, HARCO, HK Tourism Board and overseas tourism organizations to promote eco-tourism at HKWP. Workshops and training programmes had also been organized regularly to tour guides, volunteers and students in ecotourism subjects.

If you have any constructive suggestion to HKWP, we are glad to listen.

– so I fired off an email with various ideas (resisting nuke the centre to create a big hold that can become a lake!):

I made various suggestions some years ago. Some repeated here; a few are new.

For instance, for real ecotourism, should involve local people: people connected with Deep Bay.
[Otherwise, the workshops/training programmes etc do not involve anything that justifies being called “ecotourism” – it’s easy to use as buzz word, not so simple in practice.]

The park is beside yet isolated from Deep Bay. I still believe much could be done to rectify this situation.

The shop is terrible. Could, for relatively easy seeming start, have strong range of AFCD/Friends of the Country Parks titles. Also some of the other books on local natural history etc.
– could even stock Explore WIld Hong Kong! dvd I co-produced (all monies from sales to Asian Wetland Conservation Fund).
Could too try to see if can source any items from the area: gei wai shrimps, fish pond fish etc as foodstuffs (maybe Cafe de Coral could try some dishes w these?) Local veg, esp if organic.
Maybe there are some artistic people in the area, who could make things to try selling as souvenirs. Again, such sales would make for something akin to genuine ecotourism.
– for ideas, might look to wetland reserves elsewhere.

Put nutrients, even if from pollution, into the stream thing; make it not so darn sterile.

Work with the fish farmer whose pond one of the main hides overlook: if can give him some money, surely he can do some things to attract birds.

Do away with “wetlands” as abstract idea; instead, use situation to tell of Deep Bay – and of other HK wetlands.
[Probably too late for this! – that silly river thing at the end, with the rather dull tv reporting – seemed utterly remote from any wetland I’ve ever been to, let alone Deep Bay.
There’s no need to tell of pollution affecting abstract wetlands: at Deep Bay, have concrete example; with Shenzhen etc, this is a wetland under more pressure than many in the world.]

Arrange trails, maybe cycle ways, to get to other parts of Deep Bay; can perhaps include Mai Po.

Tell people of other wetlands in HK, like at Mui Wo, Tai O, Sham Chung etc.
Include re problems these face; and encourage people to visit, become ecotourists elsewhere.

Arctic exhibit: again, pretentious, and what’s the point of caribou, say?
Could have stronger HK link: show birds that breed in Arctic, occur in HK. No need, then, for Red-breased Goose, even tho a gorgeous species.
De-emphasise snow: arctic winter not relevant for many birds, other than as reason they migrate. Can show colour schemes, eg Curlew Sandpipers etc in spring plumage suited to breeding among lichens.

Mangroves: likewise, could do more to tell re HK; garial not right species, but saltwater crocs were maybe native to HK; maybe too we even had dugong (not so sure, but seen possibility of this, long ago).

Chinese White Dolphins: estuarine, and not far away; surely worth a mention within the humungous visitor centre.

Greatly improve the internal exhibits with HK species; or even do away with them if poor – small tanks w sorry looking creatures not too good (weren’t the fiddler crabs on pebbles?). Dioramas would be ok; and again, not abstract, but show some real places, show how they are eyed by would-be golf course developers etc.

Is the land on left, immediately as enter the park, also part of the park’s area? If so, create a lagoon like the “mudflat”, but viewable from outside – so seems like really heading towards a wetland park.

Less pretentious muzak; there’s no need for New Age boring music.
Add sounds from HK wetlands; and yes, maybe inc pile drivers.

The make-your-own-music thingies had utterly wrong sounds for some species, eg redshank. Don’t know why, other than the design team knowing nothing about wildlife and wetlands.

Tell people of the Ping Shan Heritage Trail: easily combined with visit to the park. (We combined; I liked the trail.)

Well, there we are – quite a list.

But I’m no big bureaucrat, nor a fancy company consultant from half way round the world (I’ve done env consultancy work for the World Bank, but when Wetland Park planned seemed local expertise wasn’t important ) – so I’ve no real hope anything will change.
Yet, for income and expenditure to come closer to balancing, for dyed in the wool local conservationists to have a positive opinion of the park and the use of money, changes of some kind surely needed.

I’ve also come across info from Ming Pao, May 2007, inc:

About 1.2 million visitors visited the 1-yr-old Wetland Park in the last yr. The 20 million revenue covered about 70% of their expense.

– so even though visitor numbers high, above expectations, revenue significantly below expenditure: hardly seems so good for tourism!
Prompt reply to my email w ideas:

Thanks a lot, we will look into your suggestion.