Conservation in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is regarded as one of the world's great cities, out of the total 1,092 km² of land, about three-quarters is countryside. Scenically, Hong Kong has a great deal to offer – a landscape rising from sandy beaches and rocky foreshores to heights of almost 1,000 metres, woodlands and mountain ranges covered by open grassland and a variety of scenic vistas rarely, if ever, matched in so small a territorial unit. Most of the Hong Kong's parks have over 1,000 species of plants.

Country parks

To conserve and, where appropriate, open up the countryside for the greater enjoyment of the population, the Country Parks Ordinance was enacted in 1976 to provide a legal framework for the designation, development and management of Country Parks and Special Areas. It provides for the establishment of a Country and Marine Parks Board to advise the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation who, as Country and Marine Parks Authority, is responsible for all matters on Country Parks and Special Areas.

Country Parks are designated for the purposes of nature conservation, countryside recreation and outdoor education. Special Areas are created mainly for the purpose of nature conservation.

The parks

The country parks and special areas cover a total area of 440  km². The country parks comprise scenic hills, woodlands, reservoirs and coastline in all parts of Hong Kong. A total of 24 country parks and 22 special areas have been designated. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) manages the parks and is responsible for tree planting, litter collection, fire fighting, development control and provision of recreation and education facilities. The country parks are very popular with all sectors of the community and spending a day in a country park is accepted by many as one of the best recreational choices in town. About 13.5 million visitors were recorded in 2011 and most visitors engaged in leisure walking, fitness exercises, hiking, barbecuing, family picnics and camping.

The parks include Tai Mo Shan, Pat Sin Leng mountain range, Ma On Shan, Lion Rock, Sai Kung Peninsula, forest plantations at Shing Mun and Tai Lam, Shek Lei Pui Reservoir group and Lantau Island. Several islands such as Ping Chau in Mirs Bay are included, and Hong Kong Island itself has five Country Parks.


Park facilities provided in recreational sites include tables and benches, barbecue pits, litterbins, children's play apparatus, shelters, campsites and toilets – all carefully designed to blend in with the environment. Footpaths and family walks provide easy access to the hills and the woodlands for visitors to enjoy the scenic beauty of these areas. Major paths are being improved and way marked through the hilly terrain.

The four long-distance hiking trails are very popular among hikers:

Education and visitor service

More facilities are provided to help visitors to enjoy and understand the countryside. Visitor centres have been established at Aberdeen, Plover Cove, Sai Kung, Clear Water Bay, Shing Mun and Tai Mo Shan. The Lions Nature Education Centre at Tsiu Hang Special Area in Sai Kung[1] is a special attraction to visitors as it consists of a rich collection of fruit-bearing and amenity trees, vegetables, rocks and minerals and other local vegetation. The Shing Mun Arboretum has a collection of about 300 plant species. Along nature trails and tree walks, there are on-site interpretative signs for those who wish to study nature. AFCD has also set up a website and a number of fax-on-demand lines to provide the public with information about country parks. Furthermore, community involved conservation programmes such as the Corporate Afforestation Scheme, School Visit Programme, Guided Walks and many other voluntary services have been organised. In 2004, more than 200,000 people participated in these conservation programmes.

The parks and the special areas contain a wide variety of vegetation, including native and introduced tree species such as camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), Machilus, Schima, Acacia, slash pine and Brisbane box. There are also animals such as barking deer, rhesus macaques, long-tailed macaques, wild boar, civet, pangolin, Chinese porcupine and squirrel; birds such as the greater coucal, great barbet, Chinese bulbul, crested mynah, spotted dove and black-eared kite; and a large variety of insects and about 240 species of butterflies. Over 500 bird nest boxes have been introduced into country parks to enhance the breeding of birds.

The Tai Po Kau Special Area is a 'Nature Reserve' and caters for those who wish to study tree, plant, bird and insect life, as well as providing pleasant and interesting walks. There is a total ban on the lighting of fires in this important woodland area. This is Hong Kong's best site for forest birding, with species including chestnut bulbul, scarlet and grey-throated minivets, orange-bellied leafbird, fork-tailed sunbird, and scarlet-backed flowerpecker. Several species that were certainly or probably escapees from captivity have become established here – for instance, velvet-fronted nuthatch, blue-winged minla and silver-eared mesia. Migrants occur here, especially during spring and autumn, and in winter; the globally near-threatened Japanese paradise-flycatcher occurs annually in small numbers.

Increasing emphasis is being given to facilities to help visitors to enjoy and understand the countryside. In this connection, six visitor centres have been established at Aberdeen, Plover Cove, Sai Kung, Clear Water Bay, Shing Mun and Tai Mo Shan. The Lions Nature Education Centre at Tsiu Hang Special Area in Sai Kung, consists of a rich collection of fruit-bearing and amenity trees, vegetables, rocks and minerals, and other local vegetation, has been established for the purpose of nature education. The Shing Mun Arboretum has a collection of about 300 plant species. Along nature trails and tree walks, there are on-site interpretative signs for those who wish to study the nature.


Fire is the major hazard and it bedevils park management for about six months every year. This is the time of the cool, dry winter when many people like to spend a day out in the hills-especially at weekends and public holidays. In a normal fire season there can be as many as 300 hill fires in the parks with five to seven fires a day when conditions are particularly bad. In 1986, a 34-hour blaze destroyed 282,500 trees at Shing Mun and Tai Mo Shan and ravaged 7.4 km² of countryside. Fire is the greatest threat to the country parks.

Litter is another problem. One of the major tasks of park management is to collect litter left by the visitors which in 2001 totalled some 3,850 tonnes.

With such problems in mind, the Country and Marine Parks Authority has provided barbecue pits and litter bins located strategically throughout the park areas for the visitors. The Authority also prosecutes anyone found littering, damaging facilities or lighting fires outside the approved barbecue sites in the Country Parks.

A number of management centres have been established in strategic locations within the Country Parks from which construction, maintenance and protection services are provided.

Marine parks

The Marine Parks Ordinance protects and conserves the marine environment and a rich collection of aquatic animals and plants, such as corals, sea grasses and dolphins. The ordinance also provides the legal framework for the designation, control and management of marine parks and marine reserves. The Marine Parks and Marine Reserve Regulation provides for the prohibition and control of certain activities in marine parks and marine reserve.


A wide variety of animal and plant life can be found in large areas of Hong Kong, especially in the New Territories. The Government's increasing concern with the protection of the natural environment has been demonstrated both by legislation and by the activities of its conservation staff. Game hunting is prohibited.

Habitat protection

About 38 per cent of land in Hong Kong has been designated as country parks and special areas which provide statutory protection for the habitats of our diverse flora and fauna. In addition, 67 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) have been listed to recognise the scientific importance of these sites and to ensure that due consideration to conservation is given when developments in or near these sites are proposed. For example, San Chau and Ngong Ping at Lantau have been listed as SSSIs in recognition of the presence of the largest population of Rhododendron championae and Romer's Tree Frog (Philautus romeri) in Hong Kong respectively. Tree Frogs normally appear in Hong Kong.


The flora of Hong Kong is diverse in character and surprisingly numerous in species. Many typical species of the Southeast Asian tropical flora are seen here at the limit of their northern distribution range. More than 3,100 species and varieties of vascular plants have been recorded in Hong Kong, approximately 2,100 of which are native and the rest are of exotic origin. Many species of plants in Hong Kong are noteworthy for the beauty or fragrance of their blossoms. Bauhinia blakeana (Hong Kong Orchid Tree) was discovered in 1908 at Pok Fu Lam. It is among the finest of the Bauhinia genus anywhere in the world. The flower of the bauhinia is prominently featured on the flag of Hong Kong. It is widely planted – being propagated by cuttings since its seeds are usually sterile.

Hong Kong Herbarium

AFCD's Hong Kong Herbarium is responsible for the systematic collection, identification and curation of plant specimens of the Hong Kong flora. It plays a significant role in supporting the studies on taxonomy, ecology and conservation of Hong Kong flora. Established in 1878, it houses approximately 37,000 plant specimens and is equipped with a specialised library to support its function.

Conservation of flora

Efforts have been made to conserve rare and endangered plant species. In addition to habitat protection, they are also conserved through the following approaches.

  • Species protection: Under the Forests and Countryside Ordinance, damaging plant in any forest or plantation on government land is prohibited. Some rare and attractive species are specifically listed in the Forestry Regulations to control the sale and possession of such listed species as Camellia species, Enkianthus quinqueflorus, Iris speculatrix and Impatiens hongkongensis.
  • Active propagation: Various methods such as seed collection, cutting, air layering, etc., have been attempted to propagate rare and endangered plants. Transplantation may also be carried out if their habitats are found to be under threat. Successful examples of active propagation include Keteleeria fortunei, Camellia crapnelliana and Camellia granthamiana.
  • Ex-situ conservation: A base for flora conservation has been set up at the Shing Mun Arboretum. About 300 species including some rare species have been propagated and established there for conservation purpose.

Terrestrial mammals

Larger wild mammals are declining in numbers in Hong Kong, mainly because of the increased urbanisation. Civets, leopard cats and Chinese porcupines are seen occasionally at night in the New Territories. Indian muntjac (also called barking deer) are uncommon but are heard and seen in wooded areas. There are wild boars in some remote areas, occasionally causing damage to crops. Unlike others, rhesus macaques are easily seen in Kam Shan Country Park. Visitors are reminded not to feed these wild animals as uncontrolled feeding has led to unnatural growth of the monkey population and caused nuisances. A feeding ban has been implemented and enforced in the area since July 1999 to help the monkeys revert to forage natural food in the natural environment. Smaller mammals such as squirrels, the woodland shrew, house shrew and bats are common in rural areas. As of 2005, some 54 species of terrestrial mammals have been recorded in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong is a major stopover point of Asia's migration routes for birds. The wide varieties of local habitats including wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, seashores, and farmlands contribute to the diversity of the birds. There are over 490 species of wild birds including residents, winter visitors, passage migrants, and summer visitors recorded in Hong Kong. Some of these are globally endangered species such as Black-faced Spoonbill. About 120 species have been recorded breeding in the territory. The Mai Po Marshes are listed as a restricted area and access is restricted to permit holders. This area of mudflat, mangrove and shrimp ponds is the richest habitat for migratory birds. More than 320 species of birds have been recorded in the area and about 120 of these are rarely seen elsewhere in the territory. The Marshes form part of the 15 km² Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site which was listed in 1995 as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. This area is also one of the participants of the East Asian – Australasian Shorebird Reserve Network.

Amphibians and reptiles

Hong Kong has over 100 species of amphibians and reptiles. Among them, over 40 species are snakes. Most snakes in Hong Kong are harmless and there have been very few cases of known bites by highly venomous snakes. There are nine species of chelonians found in Hong Kong, of which the Green Turtle is of particular interest in that it is the only known species of sea turtles breeding locally. The nesting site of Green Turtles at Sham Wan of Lamma Island was designated a restricted area in 1999 to protect the species during the breeding season. Hong Kong has a total of 23 species of amphibians. Three of them, Hong Kong Cascade Frog, Hong Kong Newt and the endemic Romer's Tree Frog have been listed under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance due to their rarity. A site that supports the largest population of the Romer's Tree Frog – part of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, has also been designated as SSSI in May 1999.


Hong Kong has a rich insect fauna. At least 6,784 species has been recorded so far and 700 additional species are expected to be found. There are about 240 butterfly species, including the beautiful Swallowtails and Birdwings (Troides helena and Troides aeacus). Of over 2,000 moth species recorded, the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is outstanding for its large size with wing span up to 30 centimetres, while the Chinese Moon Moth (Actias ningpoana) is eye-catching for its long hindwing tails. Endemic moth species include Athetis hongkongensis, Ugia purpurea, Athetis bispurca and Egira ambigua. The dragonfly fauna is diverse, with over 110 species recorded, some of which are endemic to Hong Kong. Hong Kong also has 235 species of ants, 17 species of praying mantids, 31 species of cockroaches, 6 species of flea, 78 species of mosquitoes and 124 species of grasshoppers. 4,583 species are known to be plant eating (phytophagous) and over 1,000 species are beneficial insects either preying on or existing as parasites over other pests.

Aquatic animals

The marine fauna of Hong Kong is exceptionally diverse. Though primarily tropical, it is an admixture of tropical South China Sea and temperate Chinese forms because of the seasonal fluctuations of warm and cold water and monsoon weather conditions. Of an estimated 1,800 species of fish on the South China continental shelf, clupeoids, croakers and sea breams are the dominant groups in Hong Kong waters. Farther offshore, golden thread, big-eyes and others are also of high value to fishermen. Marine invertebrates are also abundant – ranging from corals, molluscs to crustaceans. There are 84 species of stony corals in Hong Kong. The richest coral communities prevail to the east of Hong Kong where the waters are both sheltered and free from the influence of Pearl River. Marine mammals, Chinese White Dolphin and Finless Porpoise, are resident species and can be found year-round. All cetaceans are protected in Hong Kong under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance. There are more than 120 species of native freshwater fish recorded of which about 30 primary freshwater species spend their entire lives in freshwaters. Of the primary freshwater fish, cyprinids are dominant.

List of country parks & special areas in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Island:


New Territories:

Lantau Island:

See also


  • Initial text based on information provided by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), under the provision that the re-dissemination or reproduction is for non-commercial use. [1]

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