Hong Kong (CNN) — It’s not often you spot a map filled with smiling animals.
But this one has plenty.
Over 60 species found in Hong Kong, from the Chinese white dolphin to the yellow-crested cockatoo, are showcased in a colorful new cartoon map. World Wildlife Fund-Hong Kong hopes it will encourage local youth to get interested in the environment and conservation.
“In their mind, Hong Kong is a concrete forest, but through this map, we hope they see that there are a lot of animals and wildlife surrounding Hong Kong,” says Augustine Chung, senior education officer at WWF-Hong Kong.
The map was unveiled in early November at WWF’s One Planet Youth Leadership Forum, which brought together youth leaders from Asia and Europe.
“People don’t realize Hong Kong has such amazing species, they think the animals are in South Africa instead,” says Gordon So, a 21-year-old Hong Kong native who attended the forum.
Conserving Hong Kong’s natural habitats
Artist Rohan Chakravarty, who created the map, spoke at the forum. The Delhi-based cartoonist also created a map of Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve and is looking into drawing maps of some India states as well.
Chung raved about Chakravarty’s ability to communicate complex ideas simply. “He makes difficult concepts very layman,” says Chung. “We love his cartoons.”
WWF, which launched its Hong Kong program office in 1981, is also working on an interactive version of the map in which each species pops out with more information.
“Hong Kong is a really fast-paced city and people don’t have time to read different articles, so this map makes it easy to understand the natural environment in Hong Kong,” adds So, a WWF-Hong Kong research assistant, who has taught educational workshops for WWF. “I also like this map because it’s cute.”
To create the map, WWF took the artist on a tour of Hong Kong, pointing out animals along the way. They spotted marine life in Sai Kung, birdwatching in Tai Mo Shan and newt-finding in Tai Po Kau.
“When one hears the name Hong Kong, the mind automatically conjures an image of high-rise buildings and the famous harbor skyline,” says Chakravarty, who saw newts for the first time on the WWF tour.
“Only a handful of people know that more than 60% of Hong Kong’s territory is conserved as country parks.”
Chakravarty specializes in environmental cartoons, and says that since wildlife is his “muse,” he wants to give back.
He turned to cartoons after realizing he wasn’t enjoying his dentistry studies. After meeting his first tigress in 2005, the 30-year-old focused on wildlife-themed cartoons and started his own series, called “Green Humour,” in 2010.
For the Hong Kong map, WWF wanted to make sure Hong Kong’s “flagship” species were included — the Chinese white dolphin, the Mai Po firefly and the black-faced spoonbill bird — and let Rohan choose the rest.
Of the 63 species depicted on the map, 25 are at risk, in categories of endangered, critically endangered, vulnerable and near threatened.
On the tour, Chakravarty saw something he would never forget: a dead baby dolphin. The WWF team guessed that the juvenile maybe died from consuming contaminated mother’s milk, a result of Tai Po’s polluted waters.
“It was the first time I saw dolphins in the wild,” says Chakravarty. “I hope the illustration will make the people of Hong Kong take notice and care more about their natural heritage.”