Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden has on Friday received its 60,000th animal since the establishment of the Wild Animal Rescue Center in 1994.
Although this is a sad reflection on the number of wild species that require human intervention, it is a milestone achievement for the animal rescue team at KFBG and their partners, said the conservation and education center.
The rescue center’s 60,000th arrival is a Pallas’s Squirrel, which was spotted by a hiker in Pok Fu Lam Reservoir when the young mammal sought comfort by clinging onto the hiker’s leg and refusing to return to its treetop habitat despite attempts to coax it back.
The center said it is possible that this young squirrel had somehow become displaced from its parents and was seeking out warmth and food from the sympathetic passer-by.
“The squirrel pup was thin and had a quiet, dull disposition upon its arrival at the WARC. The rescue team’s priority is to ensure it is hydrated and warm,” a spokesman of the center added.
Since the start of the rescue program in 1994, KFBG has received many diverse species of animals.
Over 90 percent of the birds, mammals and snakes received are native species to Hong Kong, while over 90 percent of the amphibians and other reptiles, excluding snakes, received are exotic species and therefore cannot be released to the wild in Hong Kong.
In January 2022, 98 percent of the non-snake reptiles being temporarily kept at KFBG were on the threatened categories of the IUCN Red List – meaning they are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered globally.
Rescue cases of interest include four Galapagos Giant Tortoises (Chelonoidis niger) that were confiscated by the authorities when discovered in a wildlife smuggling case in 2016.
The smuggling of such species is fueled by the illegal pet trade which targets animal species of rarity and high value.
KFBG said it supports the enforcement work of the authorities through the holding and care of these and other animals and will help to identify appropriate international conservation programs for each species.
The center has recorded a 68 percent survival rate for animals rescued over the last 5 years, and although this is a great achievement, the center said it reflects the severity of the health condition of many of the wild native animals received and the constant threat of wildlife crime.
“Many native wild animals we received through rescue are in a poor condition when caught. They are likely to have been involved in a serious incident, such as window strike or vehicle collision. Similarly, exotic animal species face many hardships during their often cruel confinement while being smuggled across international borders,” said Dr. Gary Ades, Head of the Fauna Conservation Department of KFBG.
The center said 58 percent of the native animals received during the last 5 years have been successfully returned to the wild. Some rehabilitated wild animals which can’t be released have found a home at the education display area of KFBG.
Wild animals arrive at the Rescue Center for various reasons – many as a result of human conflicts and interactions, and through collisions with man-made structures.
Young animals may be picked up and “rescued” even though their parents may be close by. Although this is often seen as an act of kindness, in many cases it would have been kinder to leave the animals where they are, as wild animals often leave their young unattended whilst they are searching for food or hunting, according to the center.
Other man-made hurdles that wild animals have to face include reflective windows, moving vehicles, abandoned fishing gear and sticky glue rat traps. All can present serious problems to wild animals and result in the need to be rescued.
KFBG works closely with its partners the SPCA and AFCD in providing opportunities for animals that come into difficulties and to give them a second chance.
“On reaching this significant milestone we would like to thank our partners in rescue as the efforts that lead to success require good collaboration and teamwork,” said KPBG.