Conversation of Environment
Hong Kong, known for its large collection of skyscrapers and being a major financial hub, has a biological secret of having a rich diversity of plants and animals. This can be attributed to being located in the transition zone between tropical and subtropical habitats, as well as having approximately 40% of its area protected in country parks. Despite its relatively small size, Hong Kong is home to several endemic and globally endangered species. Research in the Science Unit at Lingnan University aims to identify, understand, and conserve the rich amphibian and reptile biodiversity in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. Such basic biological research is important to provide a foundation for understanding life on Earth, assessing impact of humans on the ecosystem, and guiding healthy sustainable lifestyles.
There are three major directions of this work.
- Study the remaining populations of endangered turtle species in Hong Kong Turtles in Asia are being pushed towards extinction due to human use (pets, food, traditional medicine). Hong Kong is unique because wild populations still exist. We are using a variety of laboratory (DNA sequencing, stable isotopes) and field (mark-recapture, radio tracking) methods to understand the ecology and evolution of these rare species and guide their conservation
- Build a natural history collection of Hong Kong amphibians and reptiles We aim to collect and preserve amphibian and reptile species across Hong Kong. Preserved specimens and their associated data are important resources for research, such as discovering new species and understanding the impact of climate change. Additionally, this specimen collection will be used for teaching students and the general public about Hong Kong’s rich biodiversity.
- Investigate the wildlife trade in Hong Kong Hong Kong is a major hub for the global wildlife trade. We are monitoring both online and brick-and-mortar stores to understand the scale and scope of the trade. Our work has uncovered major trends (e.g. shift of trade to online platforms) and factors influencing price (e.g. rarity increases price).
The full power of scientific research is realized when the data are applied to benefit society and the general public. Based on our research, we have engaged in a variety of activities helping international organizations, governmental departments, and the public. A few examples are listed here.
- Participated in the assessment of species for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Collaborated with law enforcement agencies to help prosecute individuals involved in the illegal wildlife trade
- Tested and implemented a variety of new technologies to help the Hong Kong government prevent illegal hunting
- Organized public seminars for teaching the general public
- Provided summer programmes for university students and elders
Prof. Jonathan J. Fong
Research Focus: Phylogeography, Population Genetics, and Evolution
Prof. Yik-Hei Sung
Research Focus: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Ecology