WWF-Hong Kong recently introduced a new wetland management ambassador programme for local youngsters. The “Wetlander” programme brings children aged 8 to 18 together to undertake learning activities in a variety of wetland habitats. The three-day programme includes a series of interactive activities and field visits carried out at wetland sites including the Mai Po Nature Reserve, Ting Kok, Tai O and Nam San Wai. Towards the end of the programme, children are encouraged to undertake simple nature interpretation by applying what they have learned in the programme to their family members. During the site visit, the tour creates business for the local community by making use of local transportation and dining out in small local restaurants. For instance, the site visit to Tai O is organized jointly with the Tai O Community Resources Centre which is run by local residents.
“It is a perfect match”, WWF-Hong Kong Mai Po Centre Manager, Mathew Cheng said. “The Wetlander sets a workable example of eco-tourism that meets the objective of using wetland resources for educational purposes whilst having a positive economic impact on the local economy”.
Last year, WWF-Hong Kong acquired sponsorship from Operation Santa Claus (http://osc.scmp.com) to run 10 Wetlander programmes for children from unstable family backgrounds living in small group homes. “Wetland habitats are deteriorating and disappearing rapidly because of human development so we hope to show the children why we need to preserve the habitats” Cheng said. WWF-Hong Kong also used the sponsorship fund to build a viewing platform above a lily pond (which will serve as an outdoor classroom), to upgrade ventilation systems within bird hides and to buy a telescope to help spot the 350+ species of birds that flock to the wetlands every year.