WWF'S RESPONSE TO THE TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF MAI PO NATURE RESERVE



Posted 02 February 2006
  1. Due to the recent cases of the H5N1 avian influenza virus being found in dead wild bird and domestic poultry, WWF will comply with the request from the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department (AFCD), to voluntarily cancel its guided visit programme for students and the public to the Mai Po Nature Reserve on a temporary basis. We have made this decision primarily to allay public fears about avian flu and WWF places the highest priority on the health of the visitors to Mai Po and our staff there.
  2. WWF staff are in the process of contacting the affected schools and members of the public about rescheduling their visits but anyone with enquiries can contact us directly using the following numbers:
              * Mai Po public visit: 2526 4473
              * Mai Po school visit: 2652 0285
  3. The temporary closure of Mai Po Nature Reserve to visitors will be in force from 2 February 2006 for an indefinite period. This closure will also be effective to those who hold valid Mai Po Entry Permits issued by AFCD.
  4. As yet, there is no scientific evidence to show that people can contract avian flu from wild birds. Furthermore, WWF has been collaborating with the Department of Microbiology (University of Hong Kong) on a surveillance programme of the wild birds wintering at Mai Po and of the over 16,000 samples taken since 2003, none have tested positive for the H5N1 virus.
  5. The period from November to April is traditionally the peak period for migratory waterbirds to visit Mai Po and the Deep Bay wetlands. During this period, WWF conducts over 100 school and public education visits per month to promote greater awareness of the importance of wetland conservation. Cancellation of the school and public education visits during the closure period will result in many students and other visitors missing the opportunity to learn in the environment and to appreciate the spectacle of waterbird migration.
  6. During the closure period, WWF staff at Mai Po will continue to work with the Department of Microbiology, (University of Hong Kong) on the surveillance programme of the waterbirds at Mai Po and review the closure period. WWF staff will also continue to maintain the habitats and facilities at Mai Po. However, we will of course insist on extra hygiene precautions for our staff at Mai Po and essential researchers.
  7. Barring unforeseen circumstances, WWF looks forward to the resumption of normal operation at the Mai Po Nature Reserve by March 2006 if not earlier.