Fri, Dec 10, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Hong Kong couples vow to love, cherish and conserve

Reuters, HONG KONG

After exchanging vows, rings and a kiss, 25 Hong Kong couples pledged their support to seahorse conservation for as long as they both should live.

The group wedding, held on Wednesday at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, aimed to raise awareness of the need to save seahorses, with the tiny critters threatened by overfishing, habitat destruction and their use in traditional Chinese medicine.

“We have 25 seahorses here at Ocean Park, three were actually born here,” said Alan Zeman, chairman of Ocean Park, a theme park with attractions that include thrill rides and dolphin shows. “We thought what a great significance to have a wedding with couples who really pledge — they’ll get married today but they really will take part in conservation for the rest of their lives.”

The seahorse is a good symbol for the nuptials because seahorses undergo a complicated “courtship” before mating and many mate for life, said Suzanne Gendron, director of Ocean Park’s Conservation Foundation.

“The biggest threat to the seahorses is traditional Chinese medicine. They’re taken, especially from our Asian waters, and tens of millions of them are taken from the wild every year,” she said.

“So working together with traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, we’re looking for a sustainable use for seahorses and other marine resources that are used in traditional medicine,” Gendron added.

The park selected the 25 couples, many of whom said they had met and started dating at Ocean Park, from a large number of applicants gathered through newspaper and online promotions.

The park also footed the bill for their big day.

“We think this is very important because we protect [the] environment and this is very important for our future,” said Alan Tsang, who took his bride to Ocean Park on their first date. “Our future should have a good environment to live [in] so we really support this aim, this event.”

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