Young interns work to save nature

March 10, 2019

The Home Affairs Bureau and Ocean Park are recruiting for the Youth Internship Programme at the Wolong National Nature Reserve. Participants will take up a six-week internship in Sichuan, receiving training in nature conservation and ecotourism.


Calvin Ma, an Ecology & Biodiversity student at the University of Hong Kong, and Alice Leung who is studying Biological Science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, both spent their last summer holiday participating in the programme.


Before heading off to Sichuan, they visited the giant pandas at Ocean Park and learnt about a panda keeper’s daily duties, including making breakfast for the animals.


“We chopped apples and prepared some snacks for the giant pandas. It was quite interesting,” Miss Leung said.


Mr Ma was particularly excited about getting up close to a giant panda.


“When I saw the condensation from his breath on the glass, I got a sense that a giant panda’s body temperature is similar to ours,” he said.


Broadening horizons

During his internship in Sichuan, Mr Ma worked alongside the reserve’s wildlife researchers and helped collect and analyse biological data in the field.


“I even lived out in the wild for nearly a week. My main duty was to install infrared cameras to discover and record animal tracks. We followed a fixed route to find out about the biodiversity along that route.”


Miss Leung worked as education ambassador and introduced the giant pandas to visitors.


“I would ask if they know the weight of a newborn giant panda. Normally no one knows these huge animals give birth to a baby of just 100g, so this would raise their interest and make them want to know more.”


Both students believe they gained a broader perspective on conservation after joining the programme. Mr Ma is now considering a career in conservation and environmental education on the Mainland.


“The internship programme has given me a more comprehensive view and understanding of conservation work on the Mainland. After going to Wolong, I discovered that different parties contribute a lot to environmental protection and I was also surprised to discover so much biodiversity in the mountainous areas near the city.”


For her part, Miss Leung hopes to raise awareness about conservation and prevent animals from landing on the endangered species list.


“When I was younger, I did not know how human development makes animals critically endangered. When I was in Wolong, I realised how many resources and how much effort is needed to rebuild a species, so why don’t we stop this from happening in the first place instead of fixing it later?”


Sharing knowledge

After they returned to Hong Kong, the interns applied what they had learnt from the internship in Sichuan by joining efforts to conserve the natural environment.


They taught secondary school students how to carry out ecological surveys near their schools by using the simple tools of a ruler to measure plants, and a pair of binoculars to observe birds.


“We saw several alpine plants in Wolong and learnt how to identify them. Today, I can teach the students how to identify different parts of a plant such as the leaves, stems and roots. I hope they enjoy carrying out ecological surveys so they can find out more about the biodiversity around us,” Mr Ma noted.


Young aspiring conservationists can enrol in this summer’s Youth Internship Programme at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan until March 27.

Back to top