Lantau butterfly haven under threat

Local | Flora Chung 15 Jul 2016

Green groups fear that two rare butterfly species in Hong Kong will be threatened as the government starts developing Lantau Island - the butterflies' newly found habitat.

Environmentalists found 84 species of butterflies in Sha Lo Wan, San Shek Wan and Shum Wat between May and July, which represent one-third of all butterflies in Hong Kong.

Lexias pardalis and Notocrypta paralysos are rarely seen. Lexias was first discovered in the territory in 2008.

Sin Kar-wah, environmental affairs manager of Green Power, said Lexias pardalis had been spotted only a few times in recent years, so it was hard to find where they lived. Sin said the fact that more than 20 of them were discovered together this time showed that they have already settled and reproduced in the three places on Lantau Island, which have become their biggest habitat. He said Sha Lo Wan, San Shek Wan and Shum Wat are lowland forests and haven't been developed yet.

The area is close to North Lantau Country Park and the connected upland and lowland environment helps to conserve the natural environment, and therefore there are a lot of butterflies living there.

The government is planning to publish the blueprint for Lantau development at the end of this year and Sin is worried that construction work will destroy the butterflies' habitats.

"The government has been actively planning to develop Lantau Island in recent years, but we don't see any plans or actions from it to protect the ecology on Lantau, especially butterflies," Sin said.

Large-scale development projects scheduled on Lantau include the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Section, Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link and Tung Chung New Town extension.

He said according to the government's proposal, it is planning to build between Eastern Lantau and the western part of Hong Kong Island a 1,000-hectare artificial island, which will be used for business.

He warned that if, for example, construction work is done to connect the roads on the artificial island with those in Mui Wo, the small communities nearby, such as Pui O and Cheung Sha, will be urbanized, leading to "disastrous damage."

Sin said the number of butterfly species in Hong Kong has remained at 260 in the past eight years. Among the 14 butterfly "hot spots" on Lantau Island, only the ones in Nei Lak Shan, Lo Kei Wan, Mui Wo, Tai O and Shek Mun Kap are covered in the government's statutory plans.

He urged the government to include the three places in its "Development Permission Area Plans" and establish outline zoning plans to prevent them from being developed.

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