Dr Sung Yik-hei: A faithful guardian of nature
18 May 2017
Finding oneself in the wilderness on a dark mountain would be an uncomfortable or scary experience for most people. But for Dr Sung Yik-hei (Ah Hei), Lecturer of the Department of Biology, the wee hours of the night are the prime time for “treasure hunting” – looking for amphibians and reptiles such as frogs, lizards, snakes and tortoises, as well as studying and recording their habitual behaviour.
Encouraged by a teacher when he was in senior secondary school, Ah Hei put his hand to raising frogs and began to read books on the subject and search online for information. Gradually he grew fond of the subject. Later when he studied ecology at university, he had the opportunity to go on field trips. He lost his heart to the amphibians and reptiles he spotted there at first sight. In order to closely observe the creatures, Ah Hei, overcoming his fear of darkness, often goes up to the hills on his own without a word of complaint, no matter how tough the route is. Sharing his experience, he says, “Mosquito bites, other insect bites, scratches or sprains are no big deal. The most dangerous moments are when I encounter boars and bulls blocking my way. Fortunately, I’m still here safe and sound.”
The more he came into contact with amphibians and reptiles, the more he wanted to conduct conservation research. “Only a handful of academics do research in this field. Most people have little knowledge of it. In view of this, I hope to use my research to increase the general public’s knowledge of amphibians and reptiles as well as to raise their conservation awareness so as to maintain the ecological balance.”
Having been engaged in ecological conservation for many years, Ah Hei was most impressed by the changes in people’s mindset. “After taking charge of some ecological conservation projects in China, I had to go to the Mainland to liaise with different departments from time to time. I also had plenty of opportunities to exchange ideas with the local villagers and I witnessed thorough changes in their mindsets. Some of them, who previously went hunting in the hills, even turned into forest wardens committed to conserving the local ecology. I was really touched by these changes.”
These experiences have not only turned out to be examples that Ah Hei shares with his students in class, but have also become a driving force that motivates him to persist in his commitment to ecological conservation. Every year, he takes students from Department of Biology abroad to observe the wildlife with a view to arousing their concern for the environment. “Man is a part of nature, on which a lot of things rely. I sincerely hope that many more people learn how to cherish nature and are willing to make changes to their mindset and behaviour.”