As part of our Year 10 Internship Program, we have visited various NGOs across Hong Kong, learning how they help save and rescue animals from the wild, such as bears and pangolins, and from poachers hunting them down. Below we will talk about the outcomes of those visits and what you can also learn to help protect the animals in the wild.
7 weeks ago, we visited Animals Asia in Sheung Wan to study Bear Bile Farming in different countries. Bear Bile Farming is the act of extracting bile from a bear in mass numbers, usually in Bear Bile Farms where hundreds of bears are kept in small cages with no space to move at all. They extract the bile from the bear by creating an incision and shoving a tube to the liver sucking the bile out from there. This is usually done without anaesthesia or pain-killers.
Farmers sell the bile to traditional Chinese medicine suppliers. They said that they are illegal in parts of countries, but in China and Vietnam, this is still legal which makes it harder for the animal rescuers to find them and stop them from harming the bears. Over 20,000 bears, usually moon bears, sun bears and brown bears are held in captivity on farms in Asia for their gall bladders on a regular basis. 600 bears that have been rescued, only 1 of them would be able to go out in the wild.
Animals Asia is also ensuring humane treatment of dogs and cats, making sure that dogs and cats without homes can help in society and not be involved in things like accidents in the city and fights with other pets. They also work closely with local governments for their work.
On March 15, we visited Kadoorie Farm in Tai Po to learn how they protect endangered species and teach the public about animal conservation. It houses many plants and animals, big to small, from birds to crocodiles. The rangers take care of animals and make sure that they live healthily.
Our main goal was to learn more about how Kadoorie Farm takes care of the pangolins, the most hunted animal in the world. There are eight species of pangolins, 4 African and 4 Asian. But why are pangolins severely hunted? It’s because of the scales they have. Scales are frequently targeted by poachers due to the fact that scales can be used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Although it was challenging, Kadoorie Farm has successfully saved 15 China pangolins over the years and has released 10 of them back into the wild. We also went to their DNA Lab to find out more about animal DNA. We have got a lot of knowledge about pangolins, pangolin conservation, and the hard work Kadoorie Farm has put into saving these animals over the past few decades.
Wildlife Alliance is an organisation in Cambodia that plans to combat poaching and trafficking of pangolins and other wildlife, protect its rainforests from illegal deforestation and also plans to collaborate with other NGOs since 1995. We had a meeting with them on March 22 and got to hear what their goals are and how they deal with problems like the poaching and scale trading of pangolins as their scales are made of keratine and can be manufactured into Chinese medicine. They also educate rural villages in Cambodia to encourage them to have positive behaviours towards their environment with their mobile education unit.
We got to meet Alicia Northcott who is the wildlife tour coordinator, and a research biologist named Nicole Leroux. They talked about their conservation on pangolins and how they’re the world’s most trafficked mammal. Some statistics here: 21,857 pangolins were seized from the poachers’ snares, 333,515 kg of pangolins’ parts were sold, and 78% of scales were sold. They also emphasised how difficult it is to change someone’s attitude and opinions of trafficking animals.
Through their campaign of behavioural change towards animal and forest conservation, they talk about the dangers animals face including poaching and habitat loss due to deforestation, the laws regarding conservation of animals and forest, and further explain why people need to protect animals.
During the talk, one of the questions asked was, “What were your failures and mistakes about animal conservation that you wish people to learn, and what things did you learn about doing animal conservation?” They responded saying that making an enclosure suitable for an animal is challenging, as those who aren’t capable of going to the wild yet, can escape the enclosures built. Some methods for building the enclosure may work for an animal, however, sometimes they don’t work for different species. For example, Chinese methods for the Chinese pangolin’s enclosure didn’t work for Sunma pangolin.
It was a great experience and we had learnt more extensive knowledge alongside the Kadoorie Farm experience the week before.
Lewa Wildlife Conservation
Lewa Wildlife Conservation is an NGO that safeguards endangered wildlife like rhinos, grevy’s zebras, elephants, cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, and other critically endangered species from Kenya. They talked about how animals are threatened by poachers, and how they’re preventing people in Kenya from doing further harm to endangered animals.
We had a zoom meeting with one of the members named Ephantus Mugo during our time in To Kwa Wan on February 15, and we got to hear about how they deal with conservation on animals, their successes, their goals, and their difficulties. He introduced that Lewa has been a refuge for critically endangered animals ever since 1995. Poaching in Kenya was high and prominent in the 1970s. They told us that their goal was a future where people value the conservation of animals in Kenya.
Mugo then talked about the challenges they have to deal with, such as how in Kenya, there’s many dry areas due to climate change and human activity (villagers cutting down trees creating soil erosion). Due to droughts, elephants topple more trees in order to have drinking water. This results in a lack of water supply. However, the most difficult challenge they have to deal with is the poaching of animals as there’s a property of the animal that is valuable for money. An example is how black rhinos are heavily targeted for their horns, and their numbers in 1975 went from 20,000 to 300. Overall, these key problems put the population of animals in Kenya in heavy decline.
In Lewa’s projects, they want to focus on conserving the ecosystem and find the balance between wildlife and humanity. So to tackle these problems, they work with communities: They have rangers working with villagers to protect animals from poachers, and they dig up water holes so that animals don’t have to try to find water. Lewa also builds libraries and schools in poor rural villages, and are still striving to improve their school systems, curriculums, and their facilities.
Mugo mentioned how education is a key factor to reduce poaching, and they approach this by also educating about wildlife, as it gives opportunities for the villagers to have ideas on how to conserve animals and understand how to take care of them and their habitat. While at this, as they bring communities together, people make sure to work together to invest in the planting of trees and improving access to clean water. By then, Lewa was able to build a community who value the conservation of wildlife and the environment, and more than 10,000 students participated in Lewa’s animal conservation programs. Additionally, thanks to Lewa, populations of animals started to rise.
A question was asked about whether poaching activity is slowly resolving and is there less deforestation. He said that poaching is still happening across the country, and there are still elephants tramping down trees due to drought. Despite this, he confirmed that so far there was no instance of poaching in Lewa. And as they bring communities together, with the government, people make sure to work together to invest in the planting of trees and improving access to clean water, and slowly, things get better. Because when we bring people together, learn to cooperate with people, give a helping hand, and provide opportunities, we can make a difference.
Overall, after all these visits, we have gained valuable knowledge that will be useful in the years to come. We hope when you read this you can also get the knowledge we’ve received and help play a role in saving animals.