Visiting wild places – staying in touch by Isabel Li

August 26, 2015  
Isabel Li, Education Director of Ocean Park Hong Kong; President-Elect of IZE.

In August 2015, a team from Ocean Park management visited giant panda nature reserves including Wang Lang National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Tangjiahe NNR.

The visit was arranged with the goal to increase Ocean Park’s understanding of the latest developments and needs of the giant panda nature reserves. The tour was lead by Sichuan (a province in China) State Forestry Department. During the 6-day visit, we were in the field to meet with scientists, nature reserve staff and a number of non-governmental organizations, which co-manage various sites within the nature reserves.

Nature reserves in China have grown tremendously over the past few years. Tangjiahe NNR has been awarded as the first group of Green Listed Protected Areas from IUCN, where the site have been evaluated against a set of demanding criteria, including the quality of protection of natural values. The interpretive panels along a short hiking trial were above expectation. The overall theme was around “human’s health” where there are panels talked about why the air in the forest is “cleaner”; why we pant and our heart beat raises when we hike up the hill; and demonstrating simple exercises we could do up at the mountain. In one of the visitor centres, interactive interpretive were used to facilitate visitors’ learning.

As with all projects, there is certainly room for improvement. The narrators (I can’t say educators yet) need more training on interpretation so they could be specific to the group they are communicating with. In October this year, another team of Ocean Park educators will be visiting Sichuan to give nature reserve staff further training on message delivery, interpretation, exhibit development and evaluation.

This type of collaboration will be on a long-term basis. Firstly, to continuously help nature reserve staff refresh knowledge on message delivery; secondly, to provide opportunity for zoo & aquarium educators to be in touch with the latest status on the animals in the wild. We should also encourage all staff in zoological facilities to visit wild places so our fellow colleagues within the organization will be better align on our the conservation values.

Panels explaining why we pant when hiking

Panels explaining why we pant when hiking

Interactive panels at the visitor centre to encourage visitors to look for various animal footprints in the nature reserve

Interactive panels at the visitor centre to encourage visitors to look for various animal footprints in the nature reserve

Steep slopes in the bamboo forest

Steep slopes in the bamboo forest

Hiking up the steep slopes accompanied by Sichuan State Forestry Director Wang

Hiking up the steep slopes accompanied by Sichuan State Forestry Director Wang

An old dropping from the wild giant panda

An old dropping from the wild giant panda

Infra-red camera trapping site

Infra-red camera trapping site

A pile of panda droppings was found between the infra-red camera and a huge tree hole.

A pile of panda droppings was found between the infra-red camera and a huge tree hole.