Sha Lo Tung: A Wildlife Haven in Need of Immediate Remediation

Henrietta Ko

Along the fringes of Hong Kong’s bustling metropolis lies an abandoned village. Though uninhabited by Hong Kong citizens, this village is home to some of Hong Kong’s rarest wildlife species.
Sha Lo Tung, located near Tai Po, is one of Hong Kong’s largest freshwater wetlands. Over the years, it’s slowly being reclaimed by nature, yet the damage inflicted by past conflicts can’t be erased.

History of Sha Lo Tung
Sha Lo Tung was abandoned when developers first bought the village forty years ago.
This fertile basin is protected on all sides by hills, and is home to over 80 dragonfly species (six of which are endangered), rare butterflies, birds, and mammals such as the barking deer. At least a hundred rare plant species have been discovered in this area. 

This site has been classed by the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department as one of the 12 “priority sites,” coming in second for ecological importance due to the diversity of rare species that inhabit the basin.

Despite the pristine environment of village, conflict began mounting the early 1980s when plans to develop the area into a golf course and residential housing area began to unravel.
Fortunately, the development plan was canceled due to strong opposition from environmental groups.


Problems continue to arise
However, the halt to development plans made indigenous villagers unhappy. To express their discontent, villagers decided to destroy large expanses of farmland and irrigation channels, causing wetlands to dry up, and invasive species to rapidly grow. 

The village’s abandoned houses and farmland also caught the attention of wargame and off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
The buildings are dotted with bullet holes from wargamers, and animal traps cover the area due to unresolved illegal poaching issues. Ecosystems have also been destroyed by off-road vehicles. 

Despite the government’s efforts to preserve this land by diverting the construction of the golf course to Shuen Wan Restored Landfill, 80 percent of Sha Lo Tung remains degraded due to past conflicts, much to the horror of environmental groups (South China Morning Post).

Baby steps
Green Powers, an NGO dealing with environmental affairs, was granted $8.5 million HKD from the Environment and Conservation Fund to start a two year plan to restore this wildlife refuge.

Their plan includes clearing the area of traps, controlling invasive species, replanting aquatic plants, and building artificial bodies of water to restore the damage done to the village’s streams.  


Getting HKIS involved
HKIS can help out in various ways. Of the sustainability clubs at our school, the Green Dragons Club organizes regular beach and hiking trail clean-ups to spread awareness about the impact of our waste on the environment. Green Dragons members could certainly expand their environmental outreach to Sha Lo Tung and address larger environmental issues afflicting Hong Kong today.