(28 November 2011, Hong Kong) Ocean Park today welcomed three largha seals and five Chinese giant salamanders newly gifted by the Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park Co. Ltd. and the Beijing Aquarium, respectively, under the witness of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture of PRC (MOA), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of HKSAR (AFCD) and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK). The donations have furthered the collaboration between Ocean Park and the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association (NAWCA) in leveraging Ocean Park’s appeal as a top international travel destination with world-class animal care to create a conservation platform for various species under threat. The public can meet the new salamanders when they join the existing collection of animals at Amazing Asian Animals, and they can look forward to encountering the adorable largha seals when Polar Adventure opens next year. Ocean Park today also unveiled the design of the planned Penguin Exhibit and Tuxedo Restaurant at Polar Adventure – the latter will offer a panoramic view of penguins in an immersive antarctic dining setting.
The largha seals – two female and one male – are all over the age of one. They weigh about 50-60 kilograms and can eventually grow to about 70-130 kilograms. The five Chinese giant salamanders – three female and two males – are all between the age of three and four, at about 2.9-3.6 kilograms and a length of 50-60 centimetres. They can grow to a length of 2 metres and about 65 kilograms. All of the animals are human-bred.
Dr. Allan Zeman, Chairman of Ocean Park, said, “We are honoured to be entrusted by the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association (NAWCA) and the Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park Co. Ltd. to care for the three largha seals. They will join another largha seal from Japan that has been living at Ocean Park for the past year. The seals will be featured at the North Polar Encounter in Polar Adventure, slated to open next year. We will offer guests the opportunity to feed largha seals as part of an animal encounter programme. Along with other arctic species, like the walrus and snowy owl, the seals will serve as animal ambassadors to convey important messages about the impact of global warming on polar animals and habitats.”
Dr. Zeman also unveiled the two major attractions in the South Polar Spectacular at the other end of Polar Adventure. Home to three different species of penguins, the South Polar Spectacular pavilion features indoor temperature control and special sound effects that mimic conditions at the South Pole. Guests will walk through the penguin pool area where they can see the penguins from different angles. The exhibit area, which can accommodate close to 500 guests, will offer extensive learning experiences through static, video and interactive interpretives. Another highlight of the South Polar Spectacular is the Tuxedo Restaurant, which offers diners a panaromic view of the penguin pool area. The dining space also features a glassy ceiling, with artificial sunlight bursting through, giving guests the impression of dining under ice-covered antarctic waters. One side of the restaurant is inspired by the rocky coast that forms a key part of the penguin’s habitat. The surrounding wall is designed in the form of rocks, imitating the warm and sandy setting of the coastal area.
Mr. Chen Yi De, Deputy Director General of Bureau of Fisheries, MOA, said, “Listed under the second category of the State Key Protected Wildlife List, both the largha seal and the Chinese giant salamander have significant scientific, ecological, cultural and soceital values, and are therefore recognised by the international community as important species that deserve a high degree of attention. Due to various anthropogenic factors, coastal and inland river habitats have experienced drastic changes in recent years, putting rare species like the largha seal and Chinese giant salamender under serious threat. Given the successful partnership we have enjoyed with Ocean Park in educating the public about wildlife conservation, we are delighted to present Ocean Park with three largha seals and five Chinese giant salamenders to raise awareness of the threat these species face and mark a new chapter in their conservation. We have every confidence that Ocean Park will offer a caring home for the seals and salamenders, and develop world-class educational programmes around them.”
At today’s ceremony, Ocean Park was gifted with five Chinese giant salamanders by the NAWCA and the Beijing Aquairum. These new Chinese giant salamanders will join Ocean Park’s existing collection at the Amazing Asian Animals to raise awareness of the plight of this ancient species. The Chinese giant salamander, being the largest amphibian in the world, is under threat of human consumption and habitat degradation.
Ocean Park is also developing three new courses for local students on the conservation of polar animals and habitats to be offered once Polar Adventure opens. Four new guest programmes are also being planned, including penguin encounter, a behind-the-scene tour, seal encounter and an animal keeper programme.
Ms. Judy Chen, Chair of OPCFHK – the conservation arm of Ocean Park, said, “As a leading conservation advocate in Asia, the Foundation has funded important conservation work on the Chinese giant salamander, including over HK$500,000 for three projects over the past three years. These include: an international conference on studying salamanders in the wild in 2009, an investigation on the translocation of salamanders into the wild in 2010, and a conservation research project across four Chinese provinces in 2011. These projects are all critical to the development of sustainable strategies for the conservation of Chinese giant salamanders. We are also working with field researchers to fund critical conservation projects to help endangered largha seals in the wild.”
Dr. Zeman added, “As one of the key ecological theme zones under our Master Redevelopment Plan (MRP), Polar Adventure gives us a platform to convey conservation messages about the plight of polar wildlife living under threat of global warming. We look forward to connecting our guests with nature – in the Polar Regions – at this new attraction, which includes the latest eco-friendly design features that make for a greener theme park experience.”