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【AFCD Presents: Into The Blue】Trailer

Do you know how rich Hong Kong marine biodiversity is?  Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has produced a new Hong Kong Marine Biodiversity video – 【Into the blue】. This video introduces the vast diversity of coastal habitats and marine life in Hong Kong. Enjoy the video and let's conserve our marine biodiversity altogether! (Information provided by provided by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department)

Sports Recommendation: Mountain Craft

(Image is designed by the student of Hong Kong Design Institute) In addition to emphasizing essential safety skills, mountain craft also encourages you to exercise your willpower and perseverance, and helps you develop communication, cooperation and problem solving skills. Mountain CraftIf you want to get closer to nature on an outdoor adventure to see natural views from high up, mountain craft, which consist of hiking and camping activities, is undoubtedly a perfect choice for you. But before setting out, remember that careful planning of the route and taking note of weather conditions are critically important to mountaineering activities as the mountains are dangerous.  Basic equipment Safety always comes first when participating in mountaineering activities, and you must ensure the adequacy of all climbing equipment. In terms of clothing, participants should wear loose and comfortable clothes, and should bring hats, waterproof jackets, towels and extra clothes with them. Hiking shoes should also be worn to protect the feet and prevent slips and injuries. Also, hiking sticks are great for supporting you and helping you keep your balance.Bring maps, compasses, torches, whistles, multi-purpose pocket knives and sufficient food and drinking water, as well as insect repellent, personal medicine and a first aid kit with medicine, bandages and painkillers in case of emergencies.Activities such as camping require the preparation of many items such as tents, camp lights, cooking utensils, fuel, sleeping bags and personal cleaning products. As such, it is recommended to come up with a checklist of necessary items beforehand.  Knot tying and protection Depending on the difficulty of the route, you should be equipped with items such as a karabiner, climbing rope and slings that are suited to the difficulty of your hiking route. In addition to this, participants need to be familiar with basic binding and hitching methods and the following types of knots: overhand knot, reef knot, single figure eight, double figure eight, follow through figure eight, clove hitch, round turn & two half hitch, bowline, double fisherman’s knot, etc. Proper employment of the equipment and tying techniques mentioned above will reduce the chances of injury significantly.  Points to note when crossing rivers If a river must be crossed as part of the hiking route, climbers must be led by an experienced leader when crossing the river. You should always walk in shallow and slow-moving areas of the river during the crossing and should avoid wet rocks and tree trunks. Slip-proof hiking shoes should be worn during the crossing. A hiking stick should be used for balancing and path finding purposes during the crossing. Do not risk water wading unless it is necessary. For safety reasons, it is best to form a group of at least two and consider the adequacy of equipment, the opinions of group members and the water temperature before risking a river crossing.  Mountain Craft training To promote greater awareness of mountaineering safety and techniques among participants through systematic training, the China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union (formerly known as Hong Kong Mountaineering Union) offers specialized training courses such as the Mountain Craft Certificate Course which targets participants at different levels of expertise. The training courses include Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 Mountain Craft Training Course and Mountain Craft Coach Training. All courses are taught by registered coaches. The aim of the courses is to cultivate further interest in mountaineering among participants while teaching them essential mountaineering skills and knowledge. For more information, please visit the official website of the China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union or call 2504 8125 for enquiries. 

“Repair Our Own Trails” (Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department)

"It is hoped that through the Trail Maintenance Workshops, the public would have a better understanding about our trail maintenance and management work." Country Parks Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said.He added, "Have you ever imagined after the workshop, the attendees were all sweated, then they began to cherish our nature and would help to promote positive messages? This brought an explosive effect. The greatest satisfaction was being able to connect a group of people. We interacted with each other through the activity and trust was built up. This was very motivating indeed." Hong Kong abounds with beautiful country parks. The full array of hiking trails of about 500 km in total provides public trail users with convenient access to the countryside to enjoy the pleasure of outing.As the hiking trails are exposed to rainfall erosion over the years, coupled with the growing popularity of hiking and trail running activities in recent years, there is a rising need for trail repair and maintenance work. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), which is responsible for the construction, management and maintenance of the hiking trails, has been facing a big challenge.The Department has come up with a win-win solution which allows colleagues to pass down their skills and knowledge, and at the same time promotes public education in protecting and maintaining the hiking trails for their own use.AFCD generally adopts a “Leave No Trace” principle in the construction and maintenance works of hiking trails. Frontline staff use simple methods to construct the hiking trails according to the terrain, and make use of the on-site natural materials for maintenance works as far as possible.Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said, "In 2016, a local community group, the “Concern Group on Concretisation of Hong Kong Natural Trails”, raised concerns and debate over the Government’s use of concrete in building walkways in the countryside."He continued, "In the light of the public concern, AFCD organised activities to communicate with the relevant organisations. We also organised some trail maintenance workshops, hoping that the public and volunteers, through participating in the workshops, would better understand our work in hiking trails management and maintenance." The scheme has evolved from knowledge sharing communication, and public forums, to educating the public on the concepts of trail maintenance. Volunteers are also invitedto participate in the on-site construction and repair works. These activities enabled the public to understand the cause of soil erosion on the hiking trails, and to learn the maintenance method.The Country Parks Trail Maintenance Team of AFCD mobilised around 500 volunteers to participate in the trail maintenance workshops. Under the supervision of AFCD’s technicians, the volunteers rolled up their sleeves to repair the hiking trails. They assisted AFCD to continuously improve the trail facilities and to promote the spirit of “Repair Our Own Trails”.Volunteer Ngan Chung-man said, "I joined the Trailwalker previously, and when I was walking on the trails, I was not aware that they needed to be maintained. Like many Hong Kong people, I used to take things for granted. I realised afterwards that it was the effort of a team of people working on trail maintenance, which allowed us to enjoy the beautiful hiking trails."Senior Field Officer, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Chan Ka-lai, Carrie said, "The volunteers showed much appreciation for our effort after seeing the hard work we put in. Some of them told us, after helping in the maintenance work, that they are willing to jointly protect and conserve the hiking trails and will use them with care. I also note that there are lots of passionate trail users in Hong Kong. No matter how tired they are, they are willing to help repair the hiking trails on weekend holidays. We are truly touched by them."Through public engagement, the scheme enabled the trail users to experience trail maintenance work, and made them understand the importance of trail conservation. In the long run, the scheme aims at nurturing more volunteers to take part in the sustainable conservation work of hiking trails.Senior Field Assistant, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Lee Ma-fat said, "The volunteers treasure the hiking trails very much, so they instantly grasped what we taught them. There is a very large group of volunteers and they are highly motivated. We have the skills to carry out the construction and maintenance work, yet the biggest challenge lies in the transportation of materials, because that requires a lot of physical energy and manpower. At the moment, we have sufficient manpower drawn from a large pool of volunteers, and they are doing areally great job."Volunteer Siu Hing wo said, "Everytime I work as a volunteer, I have some reflections on nature. What is the relationship between human beings and nature? Are we the destroyer, the manager, or the protector of nature?"Yeung Fai-fai, Felix said, "When we communicate with the volunteers, we find that they are getting to understand our work better and recognise the value of our work. This has established a foundation of the trust between us and the volunteers. We anticipate to train more volunteers, and to build up a workforce in the long run, so as to work together to manage the hiking trails and conserve our natural resources."The scheme has been running for three years, and maintenance work involving 550m of trails was completed. The Green Earth, a local environmental organisation, hasapplied for funding from the Environment and Conservation Fund. Besides, some environmental organisations and uniformed groups, which also agree with the purpose of the scheme, are exploring ways for long term collaboration with AFCD. (For more details, please visit Sevice Excellence Website)

Pressing ahead with the implementation of the New Territories Cycle Track Network

City dwellers have become more aware of healthy living. Cycling, which integrates exercise and recreation, is most suitable for the whole family to participate in. The Government has been committed to developing a comprehensive cycle track network in the New Territories (NT) to provide a cycle track connecting the east and west of the NT for leisure and recreation purposes in order to improve people’s quality of living. Here the colleagues of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) will introduce this new cycle track with a total length of about 82 kilometres (km) upon completion and share its design concept and characteristics.A cycle track running through the east and west of the NTIn recent years, the Government has been striving to implement the NT Cycle Track Network project, which will link up the individual cycle track sections currently scattered in the NT to provide a continuous east-west cycle track in the NT by improving the existing cycle tracks and constructing new ones. Senior Engineer of the CEDD, Mr CHU Wai-lun, Thomas, says the comprehensive NT Cycle Track Network broadly comprises two backbone sections: the one from Tuen Mun to Ma On Shan is about 60 km long (starting from Tuen Mun in the west and reaching Ma On Shan in the east via Yuen Long, Sheung Shui, Fanling, Tai Po and Sha Tin), and the other from Tsuen Wan to Tuen Mun is about 22 km long (to be built along the seafront between Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun). Yuen Long – Sheung Shui section completedAt present, the sections from Tuen Mun to Yuen Long and from Sheung Shui to Ma On Shan have been completed and are open to the public. Regarding the cycle track section that connects the two sections, i.e. the track section that runs from Yuen Long to Sheung Shui, the part along Yau Pok Road in Yuen Long was opened to the public. The remaining parts have been opened and the entire 60 km-long backbone section between Tuen Mun and Ma On Shan is completed. Based on the cycling speed of the general public, it will take about six hours to complete the entire route. And that will satisfy the leisure needs of the enthusiastic riders.Meanwhile, the CEDD has been taking forward the implementation of the backbone section of the cycle track between Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun. According to Mr Thomas CHU, the section between Tsing Tsuen Bridge and Bayview Garden in Tsuen Wan is expected to be completed and open to the public early next year.Beautiful scenery along the cycle track alignmentEngineer of the CEDD, Mr CHIU Chi-ho, Derek, introduces the characteristics of the newly opened cycle track section running along Yau Pok Road to Pok Wai South Road in Yuen Long. He says that in the selection of the alignment of the route, priority was given to spots with beautiful scenery and cultural elements, such as Kam Tin River in Yuen Long and Tai Fu Tai in San Tin, to enhance the appeal of the track. At the same time, the project team had considered the impacts of the cycle track alignment on the residents, environment and ecology in the vicinity, so as to optimise its design to avoid affecting some conservation areas, bird habitats, etc. Safety and environment beautification taken into design considerationAccording to Mr Derek CHIU, the Government attaches great importance to safe cycling. In the design of the cycle track, the project team has considered its width, gradient and curvature, and provided proper traffic signs, road markings and guard rails at suitable locations to protect the safety of cyclists and other road users. Furthermore, wherever technically feasible, cycle bridges and cycle subways are provided to minimise the need for cyclists to get off their bicycles to cross the roads.It is equally important to beautify the environment. The project team has specifically arranged the planting of flowers that blossom all year round alongside the cycle track. Apart from preserving as far as possible the existing trees next to the cycle track, hundreds of new trees and tens of thousands of shrubs have been planted to create a green environment in the community. The railings along the cycle track have been specially painted with patterns of rolling hills to blend in harmoniously with the natural surroundings.Additional ancillary facilities to provide a comfortable environmentTo create a comfortable cycling environment, Mr Derek CHIU says that the department has also provided ancillary facilities for the cyclists, such as resting stations with bicycle parking spaces to allow cyclists to take a rest or visit nearby attractions before continuing their journey. Cycling entry/exit hubs are also provided in the vicinity of MTR stations such as Sheung Shui Station and University Station for cyclists to gather or disband. The hubs provide facilities such as bicycle rental kiosks, bicycle parking spaces, first aid stations, refreshment kiosks and toilets. (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)

Be aware of Poisonous Mushrooms!

People in Hong Kong have recently showed increasing interest in searching for mushrooms in the wild or by the roadside. Most nature lovers are curious about the myriad shapes, sizes, colors and forms of mushrooms, while others are interested in edibility of mushrooms. Because mushrooms are pretty difficult to tell apart and the edibility of many mushrooms is still unknown, people should never try tasting any wild mushrooms collected themselves. Things to remember for appreciating mushrooms: 1. Do not eat mushrooms picked from country parks or natural environments. Mushroom species are extremely diverse, and their morphology is always ambiguous and the edibility is largely unknown. 2. Do not eat mushrooms from roadside planting areas or urban parks since planting soil may be contaminated with heavy metals, poisonous pollutants or pesticides. 3. Do not trust any folklore, such as simple tests or colors, for edibility. The deadly poisonous mushrooms are unremarkably white, yellow-brown or brown. 4. Do not eat raw mushrooms picked from the wild and in supermarket. Some chemical compounds in raw mushrooms, such as hydrazines, may make you sick. 5. Many mushrooms that have combined features of a membranous ring or large volva on the stalk, scales or warts on the surface of the cap are poisonous. 6. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching any mushrooms in the wild. 7. If you experience symptoms of poisoning, consult a doctor or go to a hospital immediately. Take the uncooked mushrooms with you and give them to your doctor.   Click here to know more about the nine most common poisonous mushrooms and identify those morphological features, associated toxins and onset of mushroom poisoning symptoms.

Mountain bike trails in South Lantau

During weekends, many people like to go cycling with their friends. But are you cyclists interested in cycling on rugged hilly terrains, dirt roads or even gravel paths? Currently, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has set up 15 designated mountain bike trails in country parks for mountain biking activities, three of which are located in south Lantau. One of the largest training grounds in Asia The CEDD has implemented improvement and expansion works for the mountain bike trail networks in south Lantau in phases. Chief Engineer of the Sustainable Lantau Office (SLO), Ms LAU Yiu-yan, Joyce, said that the first phase of the works aims mainly to improve the existing sections from Pui O to Kau Ling Chung and Chi Ma Wan for safer and better riding experience through strengthened control of soil erosion. The second phase of the works focuses on the construction of a new mountain bike training ground of about 4.5 hectares near Lai Chi Yuen Tsuen, which will become one of the largest training grounds in the Asian region, and on the expansion of several trails at the Mui Wo and Chi Ma Wan sections to form a circular network. Providing trails of different riding difficulties We found at the site that the construction of the training ground was nearing completion. Engineer of the SLO, Mr PANG Siu-tuen, Walter, said that the training ground provides trails of different riding difficulties for beginner, intermediate and advanced cyclists. Beginners can start with undulating trails, and then progress to a narrow skinny that allows only one bike to go through at a time. Different facilities cater for different levels of riders. To add more fun to the trails, the training ground was specially built with trails of different technical features, including berms, jumps, rock garden, switchback turns and pump tracks. For that purpose, the CEDD had specially invited an expert rider to help with the design. The Singaporean trail specialist of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Mr H.M. LIM, gave live demonstrations and explained that trails of different challenging levels and features are normally designed to suit the actual site conditions. During construction, the design team had tried a range of options while developing different trails. Sustainable project design The Engineer, Mr Walter PANG, said that as the mountain bike trails in south Lantau fall within the country park area, their designs are all in line with the sustainable construction principle. For instance, the alignment has been designed to follow the terrains to avoid tree felling as far as possible so as to retain the original look of the country park; natural materials that are locally available have been used in projects such as the rock garden in the training ground that were laid with rocks collected from construction sites; hand tools or small machines have been used to avoid causing environmental damage, etc. In addition, as the tiny Romer’s tree frogs, a species unique to Hong Kong, were found on the site during construction, the original gathering place for riders was redesigned and relocated somewhere far away from the tree frogs. Furthermore, our colleagues have considered ways to extend the life cycle of the trails and reduce their need for maintenance. For instance, crossfall has been used as far as possible to drain away the surface runoff, and crushed stones have been placed at suitable locations to improve drainage performance, which will in turn prevent soil erosion and safeguard the users of mountain bike trails. Promoting healthy living The training ground has been already opened to the public. With its opening, the training ground will not only host training for beginners, but also provide mountain bike trails that meet the international standard for holding competition events, which can help nurture more local bikers and promote the development of mountain biking in Hong Kong. Hope that the novice, expert and enthusiastic riders will all make good use of the new training ground and the existing mountain bike trails in south Lantau, and enjoy the fun of mountain biking while taking pleasure in the beautiful, natural scenery of the country park. (The video is broadcasted in Cantonese) (The video is provided by Development Bureau)

Don't enjoy feeding monkeys

Some people enjoy feeding monkeys, some worry that the monkeys are starving in the wild and they want to help them by feeding. However, they are not aware of its negative consequences to both monkeys and people, such as: - Becoming dependent on humans for food and lost their foraging instincts;- Becoming overpopulated, causing the ecosystem unbalanced;- Losing natural fear to humans, even snatching plastic bags or food held by people; and- Causing nuisance to the residents in the nearby areas. Statutory ProtectionMonkeys are protected wild animals in Hong Kong. Under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170), except in accordance with a special permit, no person shall hunt, willfully disturb, sell or in his possession of any protected wild animals taken from Hong Kong. Upon conviction, the maximum penalty is a fine of HK$100,000 and imprisonment for one year. Kam Shan, Lion Rock and Shing Mun Country Parks, part of Tai Mo Shan Country Park, Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, a section of Tai Po Road parallel to Caldecott Road and Piper's Hill section of Tai Po Road are specified places under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170) at which the feeding of any wild animals are prohibited. The implementation of feeding ban is intended to reduce the monkeys' reliance on human feeding, and to make the monkeys revert to foraging in the countryside on their own. Anyone contravening the feeding restriction is liable to a maximum fine of HK$10,000 upon conviction. The AFCD arranges regular patrol at the feeding ban area, and will take immediate prosecution actions against anyone who has fed monkeys or other wild animals. Monkey Contraceptive ProgrammeSince 2007, AFCD has regularly arranged monkey contraceptive operations for monkeys in Kam Shan, Lion Rock and Shing Mun Country Parks. AFCD also monitors the changes in monkey populations so as to control their number in the long run. According to the population monitoring, the birth rate of monkeys in Kam Shan, Lion Rock and Shing Mun Country Parks has noticeably decreased from about 78% in 2008 to about 35% in recent years. The total number of monkeys has dropped by more than 23% from 2008 to 2016, and has maintained at about 1,650 from 2014 to 2016. AFCD continues to monitor the changes of monkey populations and perform neutering treatments for more monkeys.

Before Go Camping

Once you have decided to go camping, the first thing to do is to choose the site and to plan the duration of your stay, the equipment to take, and the amount of food that you will need, well in advance. The following guidelines may help.LocationCheck the location and site of the site and plan your route to it. The camp sites within the Country Parks are on a “first-come-first-served” basis, so during weekends and public holidays when many campers will be competing for limited facilities, you are advised to arrive at the camp sites early. Please remember that under the Country Park and Special Area Regulations, you are not allowed to camp other than in a designated camp site which can be identified by the sign boards erected by the Country and Marine Parks Authority.The rucksackYour rucksack should be spacious, of good shape and very strong. In packing a rucksack, you should remember the principle of last in last in first out, things like raincoat, windbreaker or poncho should be placed on the uppermost part. It is desirable to fill up all the empty spaces with plastic bags, newspaper or clothing.The centre of gravity should preferably be located near the top of the rucksack. All these will make it more comfortable for you to carry.The tentA good tent is one that is strong enough to protect you against the elements. It should have a waterproof ground sheet, mosquito netting and a flysheet.ClothingTake some spare clothing for wet or cold weather and some spare plastic bags to keep clothes dry.EquipmentBlanket/sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils are basic items. Don’t forget to take a mini-sized radio with you, plus a whistle; a map (the countryside series are very useful); a torch and spare batteries (never use a gas lantern inside the tent); a sharp pocket knife; spare guy ropes and a first aid kit. Pitching the campLay out the tent with the rear fully to the direction of the wild. Use the strongest tent pegs for the main guys. Pegs should be pushed into the ground at 45o away from the tent and the guys made as long as possible. If the ground sheet is not sewn-in, it should be positioned entirely inside the tent so that water cannot run off the tent onto the ground sheet.CookingFire is a major hazard to both the tent and the countryside. When the red fire danger signal is in force use dry provisions and do not light any fire. Always cook outside the tent, in the fire places provided.HygieneBoil stream water drinking and make sure that the source from which the water is taken is clean. SecurityCamping in remote sites should be carried out in groups of not less than five persons. It is advisable to inform the nearest police station of your intention to camp and the location of camp site you plan to use.EmergenciesBe prepared for emergencies. You should know your area well and know the nearest police station. Always take a first aid kit with you and make sure that someone in your group knows how to use it and administer first aid.If any accident occurs, do not panic - stay together, keep calm, take stock of your situation and decide what to do. Cool heads and common sense will be your greatest assets.In the case of a serious injury, keep the patient comfortable, give first aid and only move him if it is essential. Send someone to the nearest point (the nearest telephone/ police station/country park management centre) for help. If your party is larger than four, send two people with a written message. It is important that the message is written because your messengers may arrive tired or exhausted and a verbal message will be garbled and unintelligible. The message must be written before the messengers leave and must contain full information such as the location, time, nature of the accident, the number of persons injured and weather conditions. Leave the SiteRemember to remove all pegs. Stones for securing the tent should also be removed.Refill any holes and extinguish all fires. Last but not least, remember to remove all rubbish. When you leave the campsite,apart from the marks of crushed grass where tents have been pitched, there should be no other signs that you have been there.Country CodeGet to know the Country Code, which tells you all you need to know about what you should and should not do in the countryside:Do not destroy by fire or vandalismDo not spoil with litter and dirtDo not pollute water catchment areas, streams or reservoirsDo not destroy vegetation and wildlife (For more details, please click here to read the Camping Guide provided by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department)