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Animal species on verge of extinction
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Many endangered animal species in Asia are facing extinction in 10 years as a direct result of human consumption, warned the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong yesterday.

The animal care group, announcing its findings of a research project for 2007/08, said that 79 species of freshwater turtles, or 80 percent of the turtle family in Asia, are endangered. Pangolins were facing the same problem.

Foundation director Suzanne Gendron said while Asian countries had implemented conservation laws and regulations, excessive consumption of the species poses a severe threat to the creature.

Many of the endangered animals are hunted for their meat which is thought to be delicacy and of medicinal value.

Figures from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department showed that 46,670 freshwater turtles were legally traded in Hong Kong this year and 652 in 2006.

No legal trade of pangolin was recorded from 2004 to 2007 in Hong Kong, but illegal trade had increased from 939 heads in 2004 to 6,478 in 2006.

The department had also seized 1,100 snakes at the airport, which were imported from Thailand, during the Easter holiday.

"There is a high consumer demand for these animals, giving rise to a booming trade,," Gendron said.

"What is wrong is that we do not have a sustainable level, and we need to find a balance," she said, adding that the species could be lost in the next decade if no action is taken.

Gendron said law enforcement alone is insufficient to tackle the problem.The effective solution is to find alternative sources of medicinal value and step up public education campaign, she added.

"We need to protect the environment and educate the community to value these animals (which will reduce the consumer demand). These can make a big difference to save these animals," she said.

The foundation will spend HK$5.63 million on 50 conservation projects in 2007/08. One of the projects, in collaboration with the South China University of Technology, will study the population and distribution of endangered freshwater turtles, and evaluate the impact of illegal trade on the remaining wild animal population.

Other projects would cover the conservation of marine mammal, giant panda, reptiles, bird, coral reefs and seahorse.

Students from University of Hong Kong, University of Science and Technology, Chinese University and City University will be invited to participate in researches and field trips.

All About Wildlife protection, Animal species

(China Daily HK Edition October 25, 2007)

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