(4 July 2011 – Hong Kong) Mr. Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park, Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, and Prof. Yvonne Sadovy, recently appointed Chairman of Ocean Park’s newly formed Education Advisory Committee (EAC), today joined 300 kindergarten, primary and secondary school students at the annual award presentation ceremony of Ocean Park Academy, Hong Kong (OPAHK), in a pledge to help conserve rainforests by choosing palm oil-free products. Palm oil plantations are replacing rainforests, the important habitats for orangutans and other rare species that call the Asian Rainforests their home. They also reminded manufacturers and the public of the permanent damage caused by deforestation. As well, Ocean Park officially announced the establishment of an Education Advisory Committee, whose members include representatives from the government, the community, green groups and the education sectors and local and overseas, to further strengthen conservation education within the Park and through OPAHK courses by consolidating advice from experts in different fields.
Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park, said, “Ocean Park has always been tireless in promoting conservation education through our edu-taining attractions and exhibits. In the 2011/2012 fiscal year alone, we have invested HK$12 million through OPAHK to increase the size of our educational staff by 40%, add four new classrooms and enhance related facilities. For instance, the Cove Classroom in Aqua City features a touch pool for coastal marine animals; while the classroom in the Rainforest has a window for up-close encounters with our capybaras. These new facilities allow students to learn about animals from a short distance. Nearly 600,000 local students have become conservation ambassadors since we started offering educational courses. With the launch of The Rainforest, OPAHK has introduced different new courses themed on rainforests to enable more people to learn about our symbiotic relationship with nature in general and rainforests in particular.”
Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education, said “Deforestation is a critical issue for rainforests worldwide. Every minute, an area equivalent to 5 soccer pitches disappears, affecting numerous animal and plant species unique to rainforests. We encounter many palm oil products in our everyday life, from chocolates, biscuits, ice-cream, instant noodles to shampoo and more. OPAHK has thus introduced new courses focusing on rainforests—three for students and three for the public— to encourage critical thinking and deepen their understanding of the issues.” Through drama-in-education elements at today’s ceremony, students conveyed tropical rainforest conservation messages that would inspire the public to help protect nature.
The launch of Aqua City and The Rainforest not only enabled Ocean Park to deliver important conservation messages to a record high of 5.9 million* guests in the 2010/11 fiscal year, also made it possible for OPAHK to launch six new educational activities demonstrating how humans are connected with the oceans and rainforests, as well as unveil educational facilities that offer up-close encounters with the capybara and an animals touch pool classroom with a wide variety of coastal critters. OPAHK also led a breakthrough in teaching method by introducing a drama-in-education approach to let students acquire more knowledge through activity-based learning.
Prof. Yvonne Sadovy, Chairman of Ocean Park’s Education Advisory Committee, a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an internationally-renowned conservation organization, as well as a professor at the University of Hong Kong's School of Biological Sciences said, “The recent establishment of Ocean Park’s Education Advisory
Fifteen schools were recognized at today’s Award Presentation Ceremony for their excellent performance in the past school year. The Academy’s Student Sponsorship Scheme, which started in 2007, has enabled over 12,000 students from families with financial difficulties to participate in courses with full or half fee exemption. Applications for the courses and student sponsorship scheme for 2011/12 will be accepted beginning mid-August 2011.