Wild pandas for HK

Wild pandas for HK

A remarkable investigation finds an island off Clearwater Bay is to be set aside for pandas, who will roam free at the unique park, writes April Fu

A colony of pandas is coming to town, but not everyone is happy about it. Details are yet to be officially disclosed, but according to a reliable source, a remote island in the east will be redeveloped entirely and exclusively for the pandas.

Rumours say it may be Tung Lung Chau.

The 'Panda Island' will be like the Jurassic Park of the film - current residents will have to relocate to make way.

But the tiny population of Tung Lung Chau is happy with their simple life there.

Chan Tai-sing, born and raised in Tung Lung Chau, who owns a snack shop there, says he has heard rumours about a big project coming to the island.

'I'm not sure exactly what it is, I just heard that something will be built, but so far we haven't seen anything,' he said. 'We like the way it is now, but let's see what the government can offer to compensate us.'

Another islander, Cho Bing-leung, who also operates a snack shop, echoed Chan's thoughts.

'Perhaps I should feel honoured,' he said. 'But we want a peaceful life. This is our island. I want to stay here for the rest of my life and I don't want to move to the city.

'I hope the government will listen.'

It is unknown who the investors in this new theme park are likely to be, but according to the source, it will be a huge joint project between influential local tycoons and the Hong Kong government.

It is said that it will not only be a theme park, but also the first ever panda-research centre in Hong Kong. It will incorporate conservation, research and tourism.

A government source revealed that Beijing was considering giving a few panda couples from Sichuan . Panda Island will allow pandas to roam freely in the woods, allowing panda safaris. 'Details are yet to be confirmed, but it would be an honour for Hong Kong to have such facility in the future,' the source said.

'But don't be too optimistic.'

A surveyor surnamed Tam, who has been in the redevelopment industry for more than three decades, said he had heard some talk about the project.

'I know some people have begun work over there,' he said. 'I heard that they want to dig an artificial river for boat rides. I thought that was quite interesting. Maybe it's a way for tourists to view the pandas.'

Tam refused to comment more, but he said he understood there were still a lot of details to be ironed out.

Xu Man-ying, an animal specialist who visited Sichuan earlier to help relocate pandas after the devastating earthquake in 2008, was sceptical about the idea of a panda safari park.

'Pandas living outdoors in Hong Kong?' he said. 'I honesty doubt this is going to happen. If it is true, the park will have to set up a lot of expensive and untested equipment to make sure the temperature and humidity is just right for the pandas.'

Xu added that pandas, with their exceptionally low reproductive rate, were becoming very rare, and pointed out that it was important to provide the best care for such precious animals.

To investigate the project, Young Post recently took a helicopter ride to look for new building work on the island.

Reporters found that the east coast appeared to have increasing numbers of construction workers and surveyors, but no big construction work was under way.

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