[Hong Kong] Response to Tai Po Market egretry incident 大埔墟鷺鳥林事件之回應

香港觀鳥會 HKBWS


Thanks K_Chan for copying LCSD's press release. The link to the press release and their investigation report is:

sdavid: Sorry for the late reply. The Society made a quick response to the LCSD investigation report on 1 December, 2017 together with The Conservancy Association and was posted on our Facebook in Chinese only. It was later published in our Bulletin No.246. I have pasted it at the bottom of this reply post for your reference.

In mid-December 2017, we made an enquiry to AFCD to check if any prosecution actions would be taken. The reply was "After the incident, our Department has collected relevant information and interviewed the concerned LCSD staff/public. Legal advice from the Department of Justice (DoJ) on this case has also been sought and no prosecution was recommended." We were disappointed by the decision made by the DoJ, and this made it difficult for us to follow up on the incident from the legal side.

In February 2018, we know that LCSD finished drafting an internal guideline on protection of wildlife. They said they have communications with AFCD to seek their advice on the internal guideline and tree works near egretries. We also wrote to LCSD to remind them some key information they should include in the internal guideline and suggested that amendments to other existing tree pruning guidelines is requested as well. LCSD said they will keep in touch with AFCD for this issue.

However, we received no further news from LCSD since then, not sure what is the current progress of the internal guideline, but we will try to keep following up on the incident. We do really hope that this sort of incident will not happen again.

HKBWS and The Conservancy Association joint response to the investigation report of the Tai Po Market egretry tree trimming incident

(1 December 2017) The tree trimming incident at Tai Po Market egretry back in June this year has killed and injured 30 birds and destroyed many more nests. After six months, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) finally released the findings on the incident.

We are disappointed that the Tree Team of LCSD, being a government department specialise in tree management, failed to follow existing guidelines and performed poorly on tree pruning. At the same time, supervisors and front-line staff took no notice of breeding birds on the trees. This investigation report clearly reflects the seriousness of this incident. We urge the LCSD and related bureaux/departments look into the matter seriously and take immediate actions to improve.

Regarding the substandard performance of staff, the report described more on the wrong-doings of the frontline staff, but the inappropriate decisions made and responsibility bore by supervisors or other decision-making staff were not clearly explained. The reported stated that actions were taken in accordance with the established departmental guidelines, yet without mentioning the specific disciplinary action taken. We are concerned LCSD would handle the case in a slipshod manner and thus do not have any deterrent effect. The deaths and injury of birds caused by the incident leads to the suspicion that the “Wild Animals Protection Ordinance” (Cap. 170) was breached. The Government should explain whether any prosecution actions would be taken.

The report cleared pointed out that the causes of the incident included lack of knowledge on wildlife protection and improper tree pruning practices. We consider that some of the short, medium and long term should not remain at the review stage but should implement the changes required. HKBWS published the “Guidelines for planning and carrying out construction works at egretries” in August last year, and we strongly urge related Government departments should adopt it as an internal guideline, to avoid the impacts of tree pruning or other works on breeding birds and nests.

We would like to reiterate that wildlife protection elements should be included into the assessment procedure before carrying out tree works, such as active search for wildlife or nests on trees. To avoid similar incidents to occur again, a notification mechanism should be established, such that works should be suspended if frontline workers discover any wildlife or nests on trees, and advice and assistance from AFCD should then be seek. Training to strengthen civil servants’ awareness on wildlife protection should also be provided.   

It is known that the tree trimming incident at Tai Po Market egretry was resulted from a complaint about bird droppings, however, the report did not investigate in this. In fact, there are various bird-friendly ways to deal with the “inconvenience” caused by birds to the public, such as provision of education panels and notice boards which reminds the public not to disturb the birds, and construction of covered walkways. Communication between government departments, district councils, environmental NGOs and local community should be strengthen, so as to achieve a win-win situation where birds and people can live in harmony in the community.
香港觀鳥會 HKBWS