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The City Nature Challenge is an annual global community science event to document urban biodiversity. Held from April 24 – 27 this year, the 4-day bioblitz saw people from over 240 cities participating to photograph plants, animals and other living organisms within nature on the free app iNaturalist. Hong Kong led the charts as the top city in Asia for the number of observations and observers, and finished in an impressive third place globally.
Despite widespread lockdowns and social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, citizens all over the world found ways to safely spend time in nature and record observations of the planet’s beautiful biodiversity, from insects to birds, fungi and plant species. Globally, over 41,000 observers from 244 cities came together to document nature, adding a whopping 815,000 observations to the iNaturalist database in just a matter of days.
The event saw Hong Kongers participate in larger numbers than ever before, recording over 3,500 species in 4 days. The total number of observations from Hong Kong stood at 31,144 – making it the number 1 city in Asia and the 3rd top city globally for number of observations behind Cape Town and a tie between Houston and Galveston.
Some of the best photos included a camera-shy Wattle-Necked Softshell Turtle captured by user @fishtse, which was only the second time it had ever been captured on the app in Hong Kong.
iNaturalist was created in 2008 as a citizen science project to map and share observations around the world, and the aim of the City Nature Challenge is to educate, inform and encourage more citydwellers to reconnect with nature.
Many may be surprised to learn that Hong Kong is one of the most biodiversity-rich urban cities in the world. It is home to over 3,300 vascular plants, 55 terrestrial animals and over 100 species of reptiles and amphibians. Despite being 10,000 times smaller than the whole of mainland China, Hong Kong, boasts a third of the total bird species in the region with over 550 species recorded in the city, and impressively represents 11% of the total butterfly species in the region too, with 240 species in its checklist.
In a previous interview with Green Queen, metrologist, conservationist and long-time birdwatcher Chiu-ying Lam, who formerly headed the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) said that he has over the years noticed the damage done to Hong Kong’s countryside and hopes that more people in the city will begin treasuring the city’s biodiversity.
“Birds are my friends, so are all living things,” he said. “I have an obligation to tell fellow human beings that we must learn to live alongside other life forms.”
In a separate interview, forest nature therapy guide and founder of Kembali Jasmine Nunns told Green Queen that we need to “remember that everything that we see and touch all of it comes from the earth in some form”.
Lead image courtesy of Hong Kong Wetland Park.