Categories
Asia Lizards Me

Blue Tree Monitor

Good looking ones have no personality

I said this was my childhood dream lizard. And, I also said blue is the rarest color in animals. But no, this lizard didn’t hold a special place in my heart only by its looks. Eye candies ain’t my thing (tho funny to say that in the gram). It’s special to me because we have something in common deep down, and we are both misjudged by the looks.

Good-looking ones have no personality. And what? Ugly ones have good personalities(?) Could be right most of the time. But generalization and stereotypical thoughts are harmful to the one in a zillion. This lizard proves to me that good-looking ones can have even greater personalities.

Blue is the rarest color in animals. You might already know that. But why?

Unlike other colors, Blue in reptiles is NOT a pigment, but a trick to human eyes. It’s produced by having other wavelengths of light canceled but only blue being bounced through reflective cells called iridophores on the skin of only a few species on earth.

In spite of looking extravagantly beautiful to the point that many might mistake it for being ostentatiously flashy, it has zero intention of flexing. Matter of fact, it’s been trying so hard to stay away from the crowd – A reclusive, hermetic and secluded lifestyle, however, of natural-born ornate appearance.

Monitor lizards are generally powerful, fearless in front of humans and widespread throughout SE Asia. But just not this unusual one.

The Blue Tree Monitor (Varanus macraei), or the blue-spotted tree monitor, is a fragile, timid, and uncommon species that can only be found in Batanta, a small island in Irian Jaya of Indonesia. Its natural range is among the smallest of all monitors. This species had been hiding successfully for over 66 million years. The species was known to science for a mere 19 years and not too much is known still today.

It was my childhood dream lizard to die for. Now having this literally in hand, this is the Blue Monday I love 💙

Categories
Australia Snakes Species Profiles

Inland Taipan – The Most Venomous Snake in the World

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Green Cascade Frog – Hong Kong Wildlife | 大綠蛙 – 香港野生動物

The Green cascade frog, also known as Chloronate huia frog or Copper-cheeked frog, is a species of true frog (family Ranidae). As a matter of fact, many frog-like amphibians in Hong Kong are not true frogs.

Being quite large in size, bright green all over the back, and can make bigger jumps than most other local frogs, this is a frog you don’t easily misidentify when you come across one. I often find them in the same habitats with the very common Whipping frogs, Banded bullfrogs, Black-spined toads, and Hong Kong newts.

This species is also found in other parts of China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and possibly Bangladesh and Nepal.

Sorry for poor quality – it’s from a video I was recording the jump

Odorrana chloronota (Günther, 1875)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Ranidae
Genus: Odorrana
Species: chloronota

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

大綠蛙廣泛分布於香港的山溪

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Blind Snake – Hong Kong Wildlife | 盲蛇 – 香港野生動物

This 4-inch noodle I found in my backyard is a fully-grown blind snake — one of the smallest snakes in the world.

Eyesight is never an important sense of snakes. But most snakes do see and have exposed, visible eyeballs. However, as the name suggests, blind snakes are completely blind. The eyes can’t form images, but can still register light intensity, and are barely discernible as tiny dots under head translucent scales. In some blind snakes, you even can’t see the dots, like this one in my picture.

Pretty common but you don’t often see them because they are totally fossorial animals living underground. That’s why being blind won’t bother them at all.

There are 3 blind snakes in Hong Kong:

  1. Brahminy blind snake or locally called Common blind snake (Indotyphlops braminus) is native to most of Asia and Africa. It has been introduced to Australia and throughout most of the Americas.
    鉤盲蛇
  2. White-headed blind snake (Indotyphlops albiceps) is a less common species of blind snake.
    白頭鈎盲蛇
  3. Hong Kong blind snake or Lazell’s blind snake (Indotyphlops lazelli) is a little-known species endemic to Hong Kong, first described in 2004.
    香港盲蛇

Indotyphlops (Ramphotyphlops) braminus (Daudin, 1803)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Typhlopidae
Genus: Indotyphlops
Species: braminus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

Categories
Asia Snakes

Pit Vipers of Asia – A Few of the Eye Candies That Won’t Kill You

Many Kiwis, Hawaiians, and Europeans who recently moved to Asia like to tell me how wonderful Asia is and how much they love living in Asia. But there is this one specific nightmare that is bothering them – snakes.

I say it’s fair enough to have snakes here. As the largest continent on earth and being warm and bushy, why would you not think there would be snakes in here? Not trying to scare you but I can easily name some venomous snakes in Asia – King cobra and many other cobras, kraits, coral snakes, sea snakes, Russell’s viper, and saw-scaled viper – all deadly. If you believe bright-colored snakes are more dangerous then I have to tell you, no. Most of the deadly snakes I mentioned are in dull colors from brown, gray to black. Ironically, the bright-colored venomous snakes in Asia are usually not deadly, such as the Asian pit vipers of the genus Trimeresurus. Here are a few I have encountered:

Most of the species are bright green like this:

Bamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus albolabris)

An unusual one can be blue like this:

Sunda Island pit viper (Trimeresurus insularis)

There are also a few exceptional dark ones like this:

Mangrove pit viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)
Categories
Asia Snakes Species Profiles

Sunda Island Pit Viper (Trimeresurus insularis)

The Komodo dragon is not the only animal in Komodo Island that makes me visit over and over again. This snake has always been the second sought-after species in my previous trips to Komodo Island.

The Sunda Island pitviper (a.k.a. Lesser Sunda Island pit viper, White-lipped island pit viper, or Blue insularis viper) is native to Komodo and some nearby Indonesian islands such as Bali, Flores, Lombok, Padar, Rinca, eastern Java, Adonara, Alor, Romang, Roti, Sumba, Sumbawa, Wetar, and also Timor of East Timor.

Although mostly turquoise or blue, some snakes of this species can be bright green or bright yellow. Interestingly, some blue individuals are born green and turn into blue in a year or two. No doubt, this species has the most outstanding colors of all 50 species of Asian pit vipers (Trimeresurus) while 90% of the species in the genus are green such as the Bamboo pit viper. A few species are very dark to almost black such as the Mangrove pit viper.

Trimeresurus insularis (Kramer, 1977)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: insularis

Categories
Snakes

Ouroboros: The Snake That Eats Itself

Life, death, and rebirth.

Ouroboros (or uroboros) — an ancient symbol depicting a reptile eating its own tail. It symbolizes fertility in some religions. The tail is a phallic symbol (an erect penis). The mouth is a yonic (vagina) or womb-like symbol.

In real life, it happens.

Although not common, I have seen snakes eating themselves. Scientifically, autocannibalism (self-cannibalism) in snakes is not normal. Well so, snakes get disoriented when overheated, and their metabolism goes into overdrive. It makes the snakes feel so hungry to the point that they will try to eat the first moving thing they see, and that’s usually their own tail. When the feeding mechanism starts, snakes will have their focus fully on consuming the prey. The feeling of pain will be overridden. Many snakes will keep going even if they’re bit, mauled, and even beheaded.

You can see why ancient Egyptians chose snakes to symbolize the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Categories
Asia Snakes Species Profiles

Mangrove Pit Viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus)

Taking close-up photos of venomous snakes is always my kind of adrenaline booster. This one was even more exciting with me knowing the fact that there’s no antivenin specifically made for this snake. Bites are treated with polyvalent antivenin in SE Asian hospitals.

The Mangrove pit viper (a.k.a. Mangrove viper, Shore pit viper, or Purple-spotted pit viper) is a small venomous snake growing to 66-90 centimeters (26-35 in). It is native to Singapore, West Malaysia, Sumatra and Java of Indonesia, Thailand, India, Burma, and Bangladesh.

You don’t always have to be the brightest one to stand out from the crowd. Take a look at this dark horse.

It may look black to the untrained eye. But if you look carefully it is a very dark purple hue, hence its Latin name purpureomaculatus. You may think that with such a dark color this must be a subtle snake trying to look just like most other snakes. But it is in fact so special being the darkest species in its genus (Asian pit vipers – Trimeresurus).

Being dark is rare, while all its cousins are bright.

Although few exceptional ones can be bright yellow or bright blue such as the Sunda Island pit viper, over 90% of species in this genus are bright green, including the Bamboo pit viper which is the most common species in the genus and was also described by British zoologist John Edward Gray. Even though it is more well-known than other Asian pit vipers nowadays, back then it was first known to science a good decade after the much more subtle-looking Mangrove pit viper was. The dark color didn’t help much from being discovered. This is the fifth species to be described (1832) in the entire genus of 50 species of Asian pit vipers.

There used to be 2 subspecies – this one (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus purpureomaculatus) and another one that is endemic to the Andaman Islands of India (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus andersoni) which is now separated and classified as a full species named Andaman pit viper (Trimeresurus andersonii) a.k.a. Nicobar mangrove pit viper or Anderson’s pitviper.

Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus (Gray, 1832)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: purpureomaculatus

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Common Wolf Snake – Hong Kong Wildlife | 白環蛇 – 香港野生動物

Not only pet snakes can have designer morphs.

The Wolf Snake is native to a large range of South Asia and Southeast Asia. Individuals of the same species from different locations appear to be very different. Patterns can be variable from patches, collars to bands. Coloration also varies from black, brownish, grayish, olive, to yellowish, pearl white and iridescent. It’s a result of divergent evolution.

It’s similar to how pet snakes got all the non-normal patterns and colors (morphs) generations after generations.

Lycodon aulicus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Lycodon
Species: aulicus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

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Africa

Wild Elephant’s Foot Plants in Isalo, Madagascar | 我在馬達加斯加伊薩盧遇見象牙宮

Yes, this is one of the rare succulents “trending” recently especially in Asia. Keeping them in pots at home is a really good hobby. Finding wild ones in their natural habits is just on another level.

Even photos of wild ones are not as easy to find as most other objects.

Here is one of the wild elephant’s foot plants I came across in Isalo, Madagascar.

It looks like Pachypodium rosulatum var. gracilius to me (but I have not studied botany so please correct me if I’m wrong)

All my field trips were fauna-focused hence I didn’t have much time to spend on the plants in Madagascar. (The animals kept me busy all the time) But I was just amazed by this unique plant I almost walked past by.

Also, the animals I studied rely largely on their unique habitats in Madagascar. Gotta have an idea about these interesting plants.

Only after I climbed up this mountain I could be eligible to comment on that mountain behind me.

Isalo is in the southwestern corner of the Province of Fianarantsoa, in the Ihorombe region. It is 720 km away from Madagascar’s capital city (Antananarivo). Not super far but due to road conditions it took me 3 full days to only get there. It’s for sure worth it.

Being completely different from the rest of Madagascar, Isalo is arid and hot, filled with deep canyons, sandstone domes, and flat-topped mountains.

Not as many animals here comparing to the rest of Madagascar. Mostly lemurs, desert lizards, boas, scorpions, and birds. Landscape and plants are uniquely amazing though. Over 70% of plants are endemic. This is exactly where the Elephant’s foot plants in my photos were.

(象牙宮 塊根植物 多肉植物)

Categories
Americas HK Me

Color Is The New Forbidden Fruit

From yellow vs blue in Hong Kong to black vs white in the States.

A world like now everything is politics, things pure as colors have become risky words, is keeping people to think less, speak less, and act less.

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK

Interracial Love Also Occurs In Nature

Interracial love also occurs in nature, though rare — Hong Kong newts (Paramesotriton hongkongensis) and Banded bullfrogs (Kaloula pulchra) co-exist in their natural habitats. They coulda been fighting for food. But they chose to form an alliance to defend each other as one.

Even species ain’t no matter. Why races?

Categories
Africa Americas Me

How Could Black Lives Not Matter?

Africa was the birth-place of Homo sapiens.

Diamond, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and cocoa beans, coffee – All happiness in life is from Africa!

#ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter
Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles Turtles

Big-headed Turtle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 大頭龜 – 香港野生動物

Days of rainstorm brought this little fella to the mountain stream behind my backyard.

Not an easy find — the Big-headed turtle is a lesser-known endangered species native to Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia.

It is nocturnal and lives in and around mountain streams with fast-running water. Not a slow turtle at all. It is fast and can climb vertically like a master rock climber.

Platysternon megacephalum (Gray, 1831)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Platysternidae
Genus: Platysternon
Species: megacephalum

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

大頭龜, 鷹咀龜, 平胸龜, 鸚鵡龜

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Hong Kong Monkeys | 香港獼猴 – 香港野生動物

There are around 1,800 wild monkeys in Hong Kong, in 30 social troops. None of them are native to Hong Kong. They were all introduced. There are 2 species – the Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta), Long-tailed Macaque or crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), and their hybrids. Stable populations reside in country parks such as Kam Shan (Monkey Hill), Lion Rock, and Shing Mun.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Macaca (Lacépède, 1799)

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

獼猴, 長尾獼猴, 恆河猴, 西藏短尾猴, 藏酋猴, 馬騮, 野猴

Categories
Africa Americas Asia Australia Europe HK Mammals Species Profiles

Wild Boar – Hong Kong Wildlife | 野豬 – 香港野生動物

The Wild boars (Sus scrofa) is also known as wild swine, common wild pig, or simply wild pig.

Sus scrofa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Suidae
Genus: Sus
Species: scrofa

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

野豬, 山豬

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Short-legged Horned Toad – Hong Kong Wildlife | 短腳角蟾 – 香港野生動物

If you will ask “What is a horned toad?”

  1. Most people will have zero ideas.
  2. Those who are into herpetology or herpetoculture will easily name the horned lizards (Phrynosoma sp) which are commonly known as horned toads, even though they are some North American lizards, not toads.
  3. Some may think of the much more well-known horned frogs from South America (Ceratophrys sp). Not toads either.
  4. Only very few people know about this one to be genuinely called horned toads.

But don’t be too serious. Common names of animals are rarely preciously accurate. That is why scientific names are to matter.

The Short-legged horned toad (Megophrys (Xenophrys) brachykolos) is also known as Peak spadefoot toad because it was first discovered in the Victoria Peak (locally known as The Peak), Hong Kong.

Its subtleness comes from its discreteness – It is a tiny little toad growing to less than 40-48 mm that burrows a lot and it is far from common. They are not easy to find at all!

Not to be confused with the common toad you can easily find, this species is pretty rare – Out of all 23 amphibian species of Hong Kong, there are only 3 endangered species – Hong Kong cascade frog (Amolops hongkongensis) 香港湍蛙, the most well-known Romer’s tree frog (Liuixalus romeri) 盧文氏樹蛙, and this toad.

Previously thought to be a subspecies of the Little horned toad (Megophrys minor). But molecular genetic evidence now supports its full species status. The 2 species are obviously different. The Little horned toad is absent in Hong Kong but much more common in southern China and Southeast Asia.

Not an endemic species – Other than Hong Kong, it can also be found in southern China and Vietnam. But it is hardly known outside Hong Kong. To be fair, it is even not known to most people in Hong Kong.

Megophrys brachykolos (Inger and Romer, 1961)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Megophryidae
Genus: Megophrys
Species: brachykolos

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

短腳角蟾, 短肢角蟾

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Painted Chorus Frog – Hong Kong Wildlife | 粗皮姬蛙 – 香港野生動物

The Painted chorus frog (Microhyla butleri) has many other common names such as Butler’s narrow-mouthed toad, Butler’s pigmy frog, Butler’s rice frog, Butler’s ricefrog, noisy frog, or Tubercled pygmy frog.

Microhyla butleri (Boulenger, 1900)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Microhylidae
Genus: Microhyla
Species: butleri

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

粗皮姬蛙, 巴氏小雨蛙

Categories
Africa Americas Asia Australia Europe HK Invertebrates Species Profiles

Scarab Beetle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 金龜子 – 香港野生動物

Because of its glamorous metallic colors, these were the popular bugs Hong Kong kids used to spend their springs and summers finding them in the bush back in the 1970’s to 80’s.

There are over 30,000 species of scarabs in the world.

In Hong Kong, the more common scarabs include The green chafer beetles (Anomala cupripes and Anomala corpulenta)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Superfamily: Scarabaeoidea
Family: Scarabaeidae (Latreille, 1802)

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

金龜子, 金龜

Categories
HK

Aliens In Hong Kong | 香港的外來入侵物種

Believe it or not? Aliens are everywhere in Hong Kong. There must be some around you. Of course, I am talking about alien species – the plants or animals introduced outside their original distributions. From mile-a-minute weed, water hyacinth, to house cockroaches, red fire ants, apple snails, to tilapia, and the vertebrates I mention below. Like it or not, we have many non-native species living here in Hong Kong, while some are thriving.

Are aliens invasive?

Ones that are not native to here can be called alien species, introduced species, or exotic species. Ones that have developed a stable wild population and are causing harm to the local ecosystem are called invasive species. Introduced snakes and huge monitor lizards may sound scary to most people. But in fact, cats could do much more harm. Studies found each feral cat kills an average of 576 native birds, reptiles, and mammals per year.

Even those that are not causing significant harm to nature but to human health, other valued resources, or the economy are called invasive species.

How did they end up here?

There are 3 major ways exotic species could possibly go into our natural environment:

  1. Released or escaped pets
  2. Released or escaped food animals
  3. Coming along in shipping containers

Most environmentalists would tell you most of the invasive species are escaped or released pets. I don’t know why they say that without any numbers. It may be easy to link them together when you see all these exotic species in the wild and you see the same species in the pet trade. But, hold on a second, scientists and experts shouldn’t make assumptions.

The exotic pet trade really is to blame?

Not to say that there are no escaped or released pets, there sure are, but the number should be way smaller than those from either of the other ways.

I’m not a fan of linking animals and money together. Actually this is the very last thing I want to talk about. But in regard to this matter, it is really about money, directly. So, there’s a price for every exotic pet in the trade. For some reason when exotic pet owners can’t help but have to get rid of their pets, they could sell them for money instead of releasing them for nothing. There are very few species with a greater supply than demand, usually the low-priced ones such as Red-eared sliders. The majority of exotic pets are easy to sell. They are exotic pets because they are exotic. If they are everywhere, no one wants them. Then they will be eliminated and not be imported to the market anymore. This is how the exotic pet trade works.

If I had to elaborate I would come up with a question on my mind, “Is the feral cat doing less harm to our local species than all the exotic pets combined if let’s say somehow they all went into the wild?” I don’t know. I would be more optimistic if the answer was yes. If cats have been pets for such a long time and not much awareness of it was raised then having exotic pets doesn’t sound like such a huge issue as the environmentalists and organizations claimed to be.

On the other hand, I see a much larger number of exotic animals from the food markets and imported goods going into the wild.

Escaped or transported by accident

There have been a number of times that live animals from food markets escaped by accident and went to the wild. Years ago there were hundreds of smuggled adult monitor lizards being abandoned in broken wood crated while the smugglers running away from the customs and police. That’s only one of the many similar incidents.

Small animals can be hitchhikers! Geckos, skinks, other small lizards, insects, and arachnids can come together with imported wood, plants, furniture, fruits, vegetables, cars, and many other imported items. They hide very well inside and easily join in the shipment.

Released on purpose – the worst “good deed”

There is also this “mercy release” practice – a ritual that religious organizations free animals bought mainly from food markets. The animals set free are mostly non-native, wild-caught species of all kinds: Whatever live seafood they can buy, insects, bullfrogs, toads, turtles, lizards, snakes, birds, and mammals, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of them at a time, every week! They even listed all the lives they set free and how much they spent on them on the news with a happy face. One single random believer can easily spend 500k HKD every month buying off anything alive from the markets for releasing in the wild.

But the thing is, they have been flushing freshwater animals down the sea, pouring seafood in drinking water reservoirs, setting land tortoises free in the water, etc. How amazingly wrong! Oh no, hold on, it’s actually better than that if they were released in more suitable habitats and could live, thrive, and possibly harm our local species. Umm. I’m speechless. This is the very few times in life I have to say I’d rather those animals not make it..

LIZARDS

Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus)

The Asian water dragon has a long history of living here. I first found them in the wild in the early 80s. My uncles spotted them back in the 60s.

Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator)

Whether if the Asian water monitor is a native or introduced species is not confirmed. But many believe it is an introduced species. Some cousins of this species have also been spotted in the wild such as the yellow-headed or Philippine water monitor (Varanus cumingi).

TURTLES

Over 10-12 species of freshwater turtles can be found in the wild in Hong Kong. Only 5 species are native. All the rest are introduced such as:

  • Yellow pond turtle (Mauremys mutica)
  • Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Ocadia sinensis)
  • Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
  • Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)
  • Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Chinese box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata)
Amboina box turtle (Cuora amboinensis)

The Chinese box turtle and Amboina box turtle are commonly available in food markets.

BIRDS

Introduced birds include:

  • Rock pigeon (Columba livia),
  • Asian emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica),
  • Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri),
  • Azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus),
  • House crow (Corvus splendens),
  • Huet’s fulvetta (Alcippe hueti),
  • Silver-eared mesia (Leiothrix argentauris),
  • Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
Critically endangered Yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea)

Yellow-crested cockatoo – Hong Kong Governor Sir Mark Aitchison Young released them before surrendering Hong Kong to the Japanese in 1941.

MAMMALS

Introduced mammals include:

  • Feral domestic cat,
  • Feral domestic dog,
  • Feral domestic ox,
  • Feral domestic water buffalo,
Macaque
Pallas’s squirrel

Monkeys and squirrels were introduced, too.

Natural Selection

Animal migration happens in birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans all around the world, naturally. Whether it is natural catastrophes or man-made disasters, it is not something new. Non-native species occupying a local environment and stealing resources from local species sounds familiar, huh? Homo sapiens has been doing this for 3 million years. Natural selection itself can evolve, too, into a modern form.

Categories
Asia Birds HK Species Profiles

Red-whiskered Bulbul – Hong Kong Wildlife | 紅耳鵯 – 香港野生動物

Red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), or also called Crested bulbul, is a passerine bird in Asia, a member of the bulbul family. It is a resident frugivore found mainly in tropical Asia.

In Hong Kong, it is more common than most of other bulbuls such as the Sooty-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster).

Pycnonotus jocosus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Pycnonotidae
Genus: Pycnonotus
Species: jocosus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

紅耳鵯,又名紅頰鵯,俗名高髻冠、高雞冠、高冠鳥、黑頭公、紅屎忽

Categories
Asia HK Lizards Species Profiles

Asian Water Dragon – Hong Kong Wildlife | 長鬣蜥 – 香港野生動物

Never getting a PR ID card (permanent residency) in spite of residing in here for decades.

Expats who live in here and have their kids and grandkids bred, born and raised in here are called locals. But when it comes to wild animals it’s not how it works.

An alien species, it is among the oldest introduced lizards of Hong Kong. I personally first found them in the wild in the early 1980s. But they should have a much longer history living here. My uncles showed me photos of them they took during some hikes back in the 1960s.

The Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) is originally native to China and mainland Southeast Asia. It is also known as the Chinese water dragon, Thai water dragon, and green water dragon.

The Asian water dragon is the only all-green lizard in Hong Kong (if the Green iguanas and Madagascar day geckos have not yet developed local populations), not to be confused with the Australian water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii, formerly Physignathus lesueurii) which’s colors vary from brown, olive, dark gray to light gray.

Physignathus cocincinus (Cuvier, 1829)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Physignathus
Species: cocincinus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

長鬣蜥, 水龍, 綠水龍, 中國水龍, 亞洲水龍

Categories
Africa Me Turtles

Wild Ploughshare Tortoise Is The Rarest Species I’ve Ever Found

Today is Endangered Species Day. (瀕危物種日)

The rarest animal I’ve ever found was the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). Only around 20 of them are in the wild. But that’s a subspecies of leopards. In terms of a full species, this is the rarest one in my experience.

Let me introduce the most endangered species I’ve ever found in the wild – the Ploughshare Tortoise of Madagascar.

It is also called Angonoka tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora).

Those big organizations will only tell you about the tigers, rhinos, marine mammals, etc. Probably it’s all about marketing which I have zero idea about.

Let me do something for this species which is TONS more endangered. Help me share this and spread the love before it goes extinct which could happen tomorrow or any day.

If you know of anyone on earth who’s ever seen one of these tortoises in the wild, definitely let me know!

Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles

Gray’s Chinese Gecko – Hong Kong Wildlife | 中國壁虎 – 香港野生動物

Gray’s Chinese gecko (Gekko chinensis) is a species of gecko endemic to southern China (Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan) and Hong Kong.

There are 8 species of geckos in Hong Kong. The Gray’s Chinese gecko is the second most common gecko after the “house gecko”, Bowring’s gecko (Hemidactylus bowringii)

Gekko chinensis (Gray, 1842)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Gekkonidae
Genus: Gekko
Species: chinensis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

中國壁虎, 中國蜥虎, 中國守宮, 檐蛇, 簷蛇

Categories
Asia HK Invertebrates Species Profiles

Amphibious Litter Cockroach – Hong Kong Wildlife | 東方水蠊 – 香港野生動物

Opisthoplatia orientalis (Burmeister, 1838)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattodea
Family: Blaberidae
Genus: Opisthoplatia
Species: orientalis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

東方水蠊, 金邊土鱉, 東洋斑蜚蠊, 東洋斑蠊, 短翅蟑螂, Amphibious Litter Roach

Categories
Africa Americas Asia Australia Europe HK Species Profiles

Jumping Spider – Hong Kong Wildlife | 跳蛛 – 香港野生動物

These teeny weeny little spiders have huge eyes! Jumping spiders have 4 pairs of eyes – 1 principal pair that is movable and 3 secondary pairs that are fixed.

There are over 6,000 described species of jumping spiders in the world, making it the largest family of spiders at 13% of all species.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Infraorder: Araneomorphae
Family: Salticidae (Blackwall, 1841)

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

跳蛛 , 蠅虎科 , 豹虎 , 金絲貓

Categories
Me

What Sort Of Naturalist Am I?

naturalist
/ˈnatʃ(ə)rəlɪst/
noun
1. an expert in or student of natural history.
2. a person who practises naturalism in art or literature.

1. Yes, I studied the natural history of animals
2. Umm.. depends

Already too much compromise living in a society where getting your own body naked outside is a misbehavior. Born naked. Gone naked. I never sleep clothed.

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Banded Bullfrog – Hong Kong Wildlife | 花狹口蛙 – 香港野生動物

Banded bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra) is also called Asiatic painted frog, Malaysian narrow-mouthed toad, Asian banded bullfrog, Rice frog, Bubble frog, and Chubby frog.

Kaloula pulchra (Gray, 1831)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Microhylidae
Genus: Kaloula
Species: pulchra

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

花狹口蛙, 亞洲錦蛙

Categories
Africa Americas Asia Europe HK Invertebrates Species Profiles

Harvestman – Hong Kong Wildlife | 盲蛛 – 香港野生動物

Before you want to learn about Harvestmen (also called Daddy longlegs or Harvesters), let me explain a little about invertebrate classification – Fun fact: They are not spiders.

Because of having 8 legs, these bugs are not insects. However, it does not necessarily make them spiders. There are many other bugs with 8 legs.

They are all arachnids (class Arachnida), such as ticks, mites, spiders (order Araneae), scorpions (order Scorpiones), vinegaroons (order Thelyphonida), and together with the Harvestman (order Opiliones). There are over 10,000 described species of harvestmen in the world.

In my photo it is a Leiobunum sp of the harvestman family Sclerosomatidae with over 100 described species.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Opiliones
Family: Sclerosomatidae
Genus: Leiobunum

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

盲蛛目, 長腳盲蛛, 長腿叔叔蜘蛛, 盲蜘蛛

Categories
Asia HK Invertebrates Species Profiles

Lychee Stink Bug – Hong Kong Wildlife | 荔枝椿象 – 香港野生動物

Lychee giant stink bug (Tessaratoma papillosa) is beautiful bug growing to 24 mm. Nymphs are especially colorful. But it is considered a pest by farmers as it feeds on lychee and longan trees by sucking the saps from its flowers, young fruits, and twigs.

They are called stink bugs because when threatened their defense mechanism is a foul-smelling, long-lasting excretion. Local people believe it is poisonous and can cause blindness when rubbing eyes after touching it.

Fun fact: Females always lay 14 eggs. Not 13 or 15.

Tessaratoma papillosa (Drury, 1770)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hemiptera
Family: Tessaratomidae
Genus: Tessaratoma
Species: papillosa

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

荔枝椿象, 荔蝽, 臭屁蟲, 十四粒

Categories
Asia HK Invertebrates Species Profiles

Pinkwinged Grasshopper – Hong Kong Wildlife | 短額負蝗 – 香港野生動物

Atractomorpha sinensis (Bolívar, 1905)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Suborder: Caelifera
Family: Pyrgomorphidae
Subfamily: Pyrgomorphinae
Genus: Atractomorpha
Species: sinensis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

短額負蝗, 紅後負蝗, 紅后負蝗

Categories
Asia Birds HK Species Profiles

Sooty-headed Bulbul – Hong Kong Wildlife | 白喉紅臀鵯 – 香港野生動物

The Sooty-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster) is a species of songbird in the Bulbul family. Other than Hong Kong, it is also found in most of south-eastern Asia. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

In Hong Kong, it is far less common than its cousin the Red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus).

Pycnonotus aurigaster (Vieillot, 1818)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Pycnonotidae
Genus: Pycnonotus
Species: aurigaster

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Oriental Ratsnake – Hong Kong Wildlife | 水律 – 香港野生動物

One of the most commonly seen snakes in Hong Kong, non-venomous, growing to 150 to up to 255 cm.

The Oriental ratsnake (Ptyas mucosa) is also known as Common ratsnake, Indian rat snake, ghora pachar, darash or dhaman.

The proper form of the species name is mucosa, as Ptyas is a feminine word form. Older reference materials often mistakenly show mucosus, the masculine form.

Ptyas mucosa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Ptyas
Species: mucosa

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

滑鼠蛇、南蛇、華鼠蛇、水南蛇、水律蛇、菜蛇、滑鼠蛇、華錦蛇

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Leopard Cat – Hong Kong Wildlife | 豹貓 – 香港野生動物

The only native cat of Hong Kong – The Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

Civet cats are not cats, and the South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyensis) has been locally extinct long ago.

Leopard cats are as big as some larger domestic cats, with a body length of 40-60 cm, and weighing 2-3 kg. Do not be confused with the Bengal cat (Felis catus x Prionailurus bengalensis) in pet trade which is a hybrid that has been developed from wild leopard cats and domestic cats over 5 generations of cross-breeding. Bengal cats do not have the white patch behind the ear and the white streaks between the eyes and the nose of Leopard cats, like the ones in my photos.

Prionailurus bengalensis (Kerr, 1792)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Prionailurus
Species: bengalensis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

豹貓, 中國豹貓, 石虎

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Hong Kong Whipping Frog – Hong Kong Wildlife | 斑腿泛樹蛙 – 香港野生動物

Hong Kong whipping frog (Polypedates megacephalus), also called Spot-legged tree frog, is a species in the shrub frog family (Rhacophoridae). In Hong Kong, it is more commonly known as “Brown tree frog”. But this name is otherwise applied to a few other species of frogs such as Litoria ewingii and Litoria littlejohni of Australia in family Pelodryadidae, and Ecnomiohyla miliaria of Central America in the true tree frog family (Hylidae).

It is widely spread throughout Hong Kong including all major islands. This species is also native to central, southern and southwestern China (including Taiwan and Hainan) and Indo-China peninsula.

An ‘X’-shaped marking can be seen on some of the frogs’ back. Males grow to 5 – 6 cm. Females are bigger, can grow to up to 8 cm. The breeding season is from April to September. Females lay eggs in a white foam nest on tree trunks, bushes, or rocks near water. The nests separate tadpoles from water.

When threatened they can secrete a fluid that may be toxic or unpalatable to potential predators.

Polypedates megacephalus (Hallowell, 1861)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Rhacophoridae
Genus: Polypedates
Species: megacephalus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

斑腿泛樹蛙、斑腿樹蛙、棕樹蛙、大頭樹蛙、大頭泛樹蛙

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

King Cobra – Hong Kong Wildlife | 眼鏡王蛇 – 香港野生動物

Every time I ask the boys, from young boys to teenagers to young men, “What’s your favorite snake?” I definitely hear King cobra more than any other snakes! Despite the fact that it doesn’t have the deadliest venom comparing to the Inland taipan, the King cobra still holds a special place in many boys’ hearts as “the most dangerous snake in the world”. It could even be prior to the hottest pop star or the coolest car because all those will become obsolete from time to time. But the realm of the King cobra just never gets dated.

Arguably the largest venomous snake

Some Gaboon vipers (even though obviously shorter) could be heavier than King cobras. So the King cobra is sometimes not considered the largest venomous snake (in weight), but it is undoubtedly the longest venomous snake in the world – commonly grow to over 10-12 feet, with the longest record over 19 feet. It is much longer than the second-longest venomous snake, the Black mamba, which generally won’t exceed 9 feet.

The King

Do we call the females Queen cobras, like queen bees? No. We also don’t call the young Prince cobras or Princess cobras. King is an honor to refer to its top danger level and its snake-eating habit.

O. hannah

Oh, Hannah! Hey, all the Hannahs out there! Did you know that you share the name with the King cobra? Ophiophagus hannah in Greek means arboreal snake-eater. The name was given by Danish naturalist Theodore Edward Cantor in 1836.

Ophiophagy

As its name suggests, the Kings are ophiophagous. They specialized in eating snakes. In Hong Kong, I’ve seen them preying on young Burmese pythons, Oriental ratsnakes, deadly Banded kraits and Many-banded kraits. Having snakes as the staple diet doesn’t mean the Kings will never ever eat anything else. Not common at all, but I’ve also seen them eating Water monitor lizards. In captivity, some Kings can be converted into chowing down rodents or birds. To make that happen it will require some tricks to confuse the Kings which will make things pretty messy. I ain’t gonna describe it here..

What? King cobra is not a cobra?

Even such a popular snake has its little secret that most people don’t know. Sorry to be a killjoy. The King cobra is not a cobra. True cobras are smaller and they are all in the genus Naja such as the Chinese cobra.

Different realms, different Kings

These in my photos are the Kings I encountered in SE Asia unofficially known as “Malaysian king cobras”. The King cobras in Hong Kong, unofficially known as “Chinese king cobras”, have much darker coloration from tan to almost black with indistinct yellow bands all over the body. The yellow bands start off bright yellow when young and fade into a pale color close to the body color when old. They are the same species though. No subspecies have been distinguished within the species. That is always only one recognized King.

Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor, 1836)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Subfamily: Elapinae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: hannah

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

眼鏡王蛇 又叫 過山烏 , 過山峰 , 山萬蛇 , 大眼鏡蛇。但不是飯鏟頭。

Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles

Long-tailed Sun Skink – Hong Kong Wildlife | 長尾南蜥 – 香港野生動物

The Long-tailed sun skink (Eutropis longicaudata) is also called Long-tailed mabuya. It is 1 of 11 species of skinks in Hong Kong growing to about 40 cm.

Other than Hong Kong, it is also found in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Eutropis longicaudata (Hallowell, 1857)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Scincidae
Genus: Eutropis
Species: longicaudata

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

長尾南蜥, 長尾真稜蜥

Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles Turtles

Chinese Box Turtle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 黃緣閉殼龜 – 香港野生動物

There are only 5 species of freshwater turtles native to Hong Kong. But more than 5 other species can be found in here, and they were introduced. This is one of them.

Chinese box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata) is also called Yellow-margined box turtle, or Golden-headed turtle.

Cuora flavomarginata (Gray, 1863)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Cuora
Species: flavomarginata

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

黃緣盒龜, 黃緣閉殼龜, 黃緣箱龜, 夾板龜, 克蛇龜, 食蛇龜, 金頭龜, 中國盒龜, 中國閉殼龜, 中國箱龜

Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles Turtles

Amboina Box Turtle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 馬來閉殼龜 – 香港野生動物

There are only 5 species of freshwater turtles native to Hong Kong. But more than 5 other species can be found in here, and they were introduced. This is one of them.

Amboina box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) is also called Southeast Asian box turtle or Malayan box turtle.

Cuora amboinensis (Daudin, 1802)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Cuora
Species: amboinensis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

安布閉殼龜, 馬來箱龜, 安布箱龜, 馬來閉殼龜, 安布盒龜, 馬來盒龜

Categories
Asia HK Species Profiles

Greater Coucal – Hong Kong Wildlife | 褐翅鴉鵑 – 香港野生動物

This is a Greater coucal (Centropus sinensis), or crow pheasant, in my backyard.

Centropus sinensis (Stephens, 1815)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cuculiformes
Family: Cuculidae
Genus: Centropus
Species: sinensis

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

褐翅鴉鵑、大毛雞、烏鴉雉、毛雞、紅毛雞

Categories
Asia Birds HK Species Profiles

Yellow-crested Cockatoo – Hong Kong Wildlife | 小葵花鳳頭鸚鵡 – 香港野生動物

I would be in and around the Mid-levels almost every day when I’m in Hong Kong. You can easily find these beautiful white parrots in there. But did you know that they were rarer than the Black-faced spoonbills you always heard of?

In Hong Kong, they are commonly seen in Mid-levels, Central, Wan Chai, Tai Hang, and nearby in Hong Kong Island, particularly around Hong Kong Park.

However, this species is not that common back home. Its populations are dramatically declined in its natural range. Right, it is not a native species of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is second home to the introduced, critically endangered Yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea). This species is native to Indonesia. A total of fewer than 2,000 are left in the world. 200 of them live in Hong Kong.

The Yellow-crested cockatoo is originally from East Timor, Sulawesi and the Lesser Sundas of Indonesia. It has become an introduced species of Hong Kong for at least 80 years.

When did they first come to Hong Kong?
This species has a long history of being pets. There are records of Yellow-crested cockatoos entering Hong Kong as pets as far back as in the 1850s.

How did they establish a wild population?
The most believed story is that Hong Kong Governor Sir Mark Aitchison Young released the Government House’s entire bird collection, including a large number of this species, hours before surrendering Hong Kong to Japanese troops in December 1941.

There are now around 200 of them in Hong Kong – that is already more than 10% of its entire population in the world which keeps declining.

It is also known as the Lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo to differentiate from its larger and much more common Australian cousin, the Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita).

Cacatua sulphurea (Gmelin, 1788)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Cacatuidae
Genus: Cacatua
Subgenus: Cacatua
Species: sulphurea

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

小葵花鳳頭鸚鵡, 橘冠葵花鳳頭鸚鵡, 小葵花鸚鵡, 小巴丹鸚鵡, 小巴, 小葵

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Pallas’s Squirrel – Hong Kong Wildlife | 赤腹松鼠 – 香港野生動物

Squirrels are everywhere in the world, with the exception of Antarctica. These rodents can even be found in the Arctic Circle. But did you know that, like Australia, there were no squirrels in Hong Kong originally? They were introduced.

There are 200 species in the squirrel family (Sciuridae) – Chipmunks, marmots, groundhogs, flying squirrels, prairie dogs, just to name a few. But there is only this species that was introduced to Hong Kong – The Pallas’s squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus)

This species has a wide distribution throughout most of southeastern Asia from India, Bhutan, Myanmar, to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, and southern and eastern China, including Hainan, but just not Hong Kong.

It is the only species of squirrel found in Hong Kong. But there are at least 2 subspecies found in here. They are quite clearly apart from each other – C. e. thai is found on the Hong Kong Island such as Pokfulam and Tai Tam. C. e. styani is found in the New Territories such as Tai Po Kau, Shing Mun and Tai Lam.

The Pallas’s squirrel is also known as the Red-bellied tree squirrel. But do not be confused with the Red-bellied squirrel (Rubrisciurus rubriventer) which is another species of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Callosciurus erythraeus (Pallas, 1779)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Callosciurus
Species: erythraeus

赤腹松鼠, 紅肚松鼠

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Burmese Python – Hong Kong Wildlife | 蟒蛇 – 香港野生動物

Gentle giant – the Burmese python is the largest native species in Hong Kong (in length) which I feel more comfortable catching than many smaller snakes. Not saying they won’t bite though.

Size does matter, but length or girth?
Wild pythons in Hong Kong used to be much larger back in the 50s. The record-holder was 5.74 m (18’10”). Nowadays the ones found rarely exceed 3-4 m. But length is not what makes the Burmese python a true giant. Weight is. The heaviest record is 182.8 kg (403 lb). A few species could grow longer (such as the Reticulated python) but probably only one single species can grow heavier – the Green anaconda.

The Big 5

The Burmese python is the largest snake in Hong Kong and the second-largest (in weight) in the world after the Green anaconda. Together with the Reticulated python (the longest snake in the world), African rock python, and Indian python, they make the big 5 of snakes. But the size ranking of these giant snakes should not be considered definitive. There is considerable variation in the maximum reported size of these species, and most measurements are not truly verifiable.

The 5 largest snakes in the world (not listed in order):

  1. Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
  2. Burmese python (Python bivittatus)
  3. Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)
  4. African rock python (Python sebae)
  5. Indian python (Python molurus)

Has Burma separated from India a decade ago? What?

Surprisingly, such an iconic snake did not get to become a full species until 2009. Before that, the Burmese python was considered just a subspecies of the Indian python (Python molurus). Asian rock python was the name for both on the species level.

It swallows more than just swallows

When keeping backyard poultry was still allowed in Hong Kong back in the day, before 2006, chicken was the python’s favorite item on the menu. After 2006, its diet has been back to natural which consists of birds, rodents, feral cats, dogs, monkeys, barking deers, calves, goats, and wild boars.

Overgrown in the West; Protected in the East

Despite the fact that the Burmese python has become a very “successful” invasive species on the other side of the globe in the Florida Everglades, it is locally protected in Hong Kong. As apex predators of Hong Kong, these giant snakes contribute to ecosystem services by controlling the overpopulation of rodents, boars, and especially feral cats which kill a large number of local species every night.

Juvenile Burmese pythons can be preyed on by King cobras, feral cats, owls and other birds. I’ve seen Red-billed blue magpies eating them. Adults have no natural predators.

Due to their large mass and the amount of self-confidence, when we encounter them chances are they can be moving very slowly. Roadkills happen often. I have had them crossing the road slowly (or barely moving) right in front of my car when driving in suburbs or rural areas. I had to block the road with my car until they finished crossing. Even had to move those not willing to move to the roadside.

They travel by day, too

Mainly nocturnal, but they are often found hanging out during the day in the warmer days in Hong Kong. They travel a lot – have a large home range. It is recorded that there’s a radio-tracked adult female which covered an area of more than 12 hectares within 24 hours on Lantau Island.

Not only in Burma

In Hong Kong, it is widely distributed including all major islands. Outside Hong Kong, in spite of the name, the distribution of the Burmese pyhton is not limited to Myanmar but throughout southern and Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern China in Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi, and Yunnan.

Python bivittatus (Kuhl, 1820)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Python
Species: bivittatus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

緬甸蟒, 蟒蛇, 黑蛇蟒, 蚺蛇, 南蛇, 琴蛇

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Small Indian Civet – Hong Kong Wildlife | 小靈貓 – 香港野生動物

Civets (or sometimes called civet cats, though they are not cats) are small, lean, mostly nocturnal mammal native to tropical forests of Asia and Africa.

Kopi luwak (also called civet coffee, caphe cut chon, fox-dung coffee, kape alamid) is a coffee that is prepared using coffee cherries that have been eaten and partly digested by the Asian palm civet.

In Hong Kong, there are officially 3 native civets – The Small Indian civet (Viverricula indica taivana), the Masked palm civet (Paguma larvata taivana), and the Large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha). The first two are still common but the last one has not been discovered since the 1970s, hence is considered extirpated.

Viverricula indica (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Viverridae
Genus: Viverricula
Hodgson, 1838
Species: indica

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

小靈貓, 七間狸, 麝香貓

Categories
Amphibians Asia HK Species Profiles

Asian Black-spined Toad – Hong Kong Wildlife | 黑眶蟾蜍 – 香港野生動物

Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) is also called Asian common toad, black-spectacled toad, or just Asian toad. It is probably the most common amphibian in Hong Kong.

It is also widely distributed throughout Asia from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, southern China, Taiwan, and Macau to Malaysia, Singapore, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Anambas and Natuna Islands.

It has been accidentally introduced to many other parts of the world as an invasive species such Bali in 1958, Sulawesi in 1974, then subsequently to Ambon, Lombok, Sumba, Sumbawa, Timor and Indonesian New Guinea, Australia in 2000, and Madagascar in 2011.

Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Schneider, 1799)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Bufonidae
Genus: Duttaphrynus
Species: melanostictus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

黑眶蟾蜍, 癩蝦蟆

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Many-banded Krait – Hong Kong Wildlife | 銀環蛇 – 香港野生動物

Many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus), or Multi-banded krait, is much smaller than its cousin Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) but is surprisingly deadlier – the most venomous krait in the world!

Distribution
In Hong Kong, it’s widely distributed in New Territories and on some islands. Outside Hong Kong, it’s found in much of central and southern China and Southeast Asia.

Habitat
These kraits dwell in a diversity of habitats including shrublands, forests, agricultural areas, mangroves, and marshes. They prefer humid lowlands. I often found them inside catchwaters. Uncommon in drier grasslands and woodlands.

Behavior
Just like other kraits, it is strictly nocturnal. The ones I found during the day were all very timid and didn’t try to bite. But at night they will become highly alert.

Diet
Kraits are ophiophagous, preying primarily upon other snakes (including venomous and harmless snakes) and can be cannibalistic, feeding on their own kind. I have also seen few of them eating small rodents, frogs and lizards.

Reproduction
Oviparous. 4-8 eggs per clutch.

Venom
Bites can be deadly to humans. The venom is highly toxic with LD50 values of 0.09 – 0.108 mg/kg. Clinical effects include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and dizziness. Severe envenomation can lead to respiratory failure and death may occur due to suffocation. I have been super careful when catching the one in my photo together with every single one I caught by hand. They are smaller, more wiggly, more slippery, and harder to get a hold of.

Bungarus multicinctus (Blyth, 1861)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: multicinctus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

銀環蛇, 銀腳帶, 銀蛇, 白節蛇, 銀包鐵, 雨傘節、寸白蛇、過基甲、過基峽、簸箕甲、手巾蛇、銀腳帶、銀環蛇、金錢蛇、銀蛇、花扇柄(客家話)、雨傘柄(潮州話)、小白藥蛇、台灣克雷特.

Categories
Asia HK Snakes Species Profiles

Banded Krait – Hong Kong Wildlife | 金環蛇 – 香港野生動物

Strangely, this is a “tame” kind of deadly snake.

This kind of black-and-yellow rarely bites, but if it does it’s gonna kill.

The Banded krait (Bungarus fasciatus) is a large, venomous snake growing to anywhere from 100 up to 210 cm (3’3″ to 6’11”). It is larger but less venomous than its cousin, the Many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus). But who cares? Bites are still toxic enough to kill humans!

Distribution
In Hong Kong, it’s distributed in some particular parts of the New Territories, Hong Kong Island, and Lantau. Outside Hong Kong, it’s widely distributed from India to southern China, and from Malay Peninsula to Indonesia.

Habitat
It prefers living in lowlands with much vegetation and water like shrublands, cultivated fields, and marshes. Uncommon in drier grasslands and woodlands.

Behavior
Just like other kraits, it is strictly nocturnal. The ones I found during the day were all very timid and didn’t try to bite. But at night they will become highly alert.

Diet
Kraits are ophiophagous, preying primarily upon other snakes (including venomous and harmless snakes) and can be cannibalistic, feeding on their own kind. Banded kraits in Hong Kong mainly feed on rat snakes (Ptyas sp). I have also seen few of them eating frogs and lizards.

Reproduction
Oviparous. 6-14 eggs per clutch.

Venom
The Banded krait rarely attack. But when it does defensively its bites can be deadly to humans. The venom mainly contains neurotoxins with LD50 values of 2.4 – 3.6 mg/kg. Clinical effects include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and dizziness. Severe envenomation can lead to respiratory failure and death may occur due to suffocation.

Bungarus fasciatus (Schneider, 1801)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: fasciatus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

金腳帶, 金環蛇, 金甲帶, 黃金甲, 鐵包金, 金蛇, 金甲帶、金包鐵、金腳帶、花扇柄(客家話)、雨傘柄(潮州話), 佛蛇

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Pangolin – Hong Kong Wildlife | 穿山甲 – 香港野生動物

This mammal has a lot in common with the porcupine. It is also nocturnal, slow-moving, and with high protection of the body made out of keratin. But unlike the porcupine, this one is rare.

Extremely rare, critically endangered, and the number 1 most trafficked mammal in the world.

Did you know that we have pangolins in Hong Kong? Pangolins specialize in eating ants and termites with their long sticky tongue. They are the only mammals with scales all over their body. They were thought to be related to armadillos, anteaters, and sloths in the past. But new studies suggest that they are unique mammals not related to anything that looks alike.

There are 8 species of pangolins in the world. They are found in Asia and Africa – 3 species are endangered. Another 3 species are critically endangered, including our native one – The Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).

They used to be a lot more common back in the days. We could find them from time to time. But now you have to be very experienced plus super lucky to just find one, thanks to deforestation and poaching for their meat and scales to be used in traditional medicines. What for? Hysterical crying in children and women thought to be possessed by devils. What do you say?

Manis pentadactyla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae
Genus: Manis
Subgenus: Manis
Species: pentadactyla

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

 這一種哺乳類動物, 跟箭豬有很多相似的地方。牠也是夜行性動物, 行動緩慢, 身體外層有堅硬角質層保護。但不似箭豬, 這動物非常罕有。

你知道香港有穿山甲嗎? 穿山甲會用牠細長又具黏力的舌頭吃蟻及白蟻, 牠們是唯一一種有鱗片的哺乳類動物。牠們以往經常被誤為與犰狳, 食蟻獸, 或樹懶有關係。但新的研究表示, 牠們是獨立的一個品種, 跟其他表徵相似的動物沒有關係。

在亞洲及非洲一共有8種穿山甲, 其中3種是瀕危品種, 另外3種是極危物種, 包括香港本地的中華穿山甲 (Manis pentadactyla), 是全球走私量最高的動物。

穿山甲在以往比較容易被發現, 我們間中可以看到牠們。多得了森林開伐及非法獵捕, 現在你必須超級幸運才能看到一隻。人們捕捉牠們據說具有藥用價值的肉及鱗片, 到底是為了甚麼? 小兒的睡眠不寧和容易驚醒, 或作驅魔之用。你覺得呢?

Categories
Asia HK Mammals Species Profiles

Porcupine – Hong Kong Wildlife | 箭豬 – 香港野生動物

If you will go on a night hike this is possibly the easiest animal to spot.

The only porcupine species in Hong Kong is the Malayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura). I found these spiky fellows in Kowloon Peak. It has become obviously more common in the Mid-levels along Blacks Link, Bowen Road, and the Victoria Peak, also in mountains in the New Territories.

Porcupines are not hedgehogs.

No, not Sonic! Hedgehogs are not rodents and there are no native hedgehogs in Hong Kong. Hedgehogs have short quills all over their back. Porcupines are large rodents covered with long quills all over the rear part of the body. The quills are hard and sharp. But they are actually hairs – some modified hairs coated with a lot of keratin.

You may have heard of porcupines shooting spines at predators. Umm.. very exciting! Unfortunately, it’s not true. They cannot shoot quills. But we don’t have to worry about them not protecting themselves well. When there are predators they will raise up their long sharp quills and run backwards towards the predators. When the quills are touched, they can be released and stuck in the predator’s body. Ouch!

What if they are so unlucky to meet many predators the same night. Will they lose all the quills and become a guinea pig? No, they can regrow new quills. Remember what I mentioned? Quills are hairs.

Hystrix brachyura (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Hystricidae
Genus: Hystrix
Species: brachyura

This video is about porcupines and other animals of Hong Kong.

This video is about hedgehogs but I have talked about its difference from porcupines.

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

如果你晚上會到郊外走走, 你可能很容易看到這種動物 – 香港的箭豬品種是馬來箭豬 Hystrix brachyura. 我在九龍半山看到這長滿尖刺的傢伙, 現在也很容易可以於香港島半山區, 沿著布力徑, 寶雲道, 以及山頂及新界一帶山嶺找得到。

箭豬不是刺蝟, 牠們不是超音鼠, 牠們是大型嚙齒目, 身體後半部都是長尖刺。尖刺都非常堅硬及尖銳, 那些其實是毛髮, 是因為角質層包裹著而變成的硬刺。

你也許有聽過前箭豬會放刺攻擊敵人, 唔,  那會令人非常興奮! 可惜那是錯的。牠們不會放刺攻擊, 但我們也不用擔心牠們, 當敵人靠近牠們時 牠們會立即將尖刺豎起, 然後反方向跑到敵人那方。當尖刺碰到任何東西, 都可以脫離牠們身體, 插進敵人的身體。噢呀。

假如牠們有一晚, 不幸同時遇上很多敵人怎麼辦? 牠們會用盡所有刺然後變成天竺鼠嗎? 不用擔心, 牠們的刺都會再長出來。

Categories
Asia Birds HK Species Profiles

Red-billed Blue Magpie – Hong Kong Wildlife | 藍喜鵲 – 香港野生動物

Flying right outside my house comes these cheeky birds. They don’t only rob nests they also chow up snakes like sucking up noodles. Saw that. Nope. Didn’t “save” the snakes.

Red-billed blue magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha) is a member of the crow family. Not the most popular bird in Hong Kong but its Taiwanese cousin, Formosan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea), is the national bird in Taiwan.

It is a resident bird in Hong Kong. Pretty common and widespread, especially in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island.

These are some of them having fun right outside my house at the peak these days. So I was just taking these snapshots while having coffee outside. So I was just taking these snapshots while having coffee outside.

Identifying this bird is easy. Its tail is longer than any other birds you can find in Hong Kong. The species is also found in Western Himalayas, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, and China. Typical habitats are mountains and forests.

They feed on seeds and fruits. I have also seen them hunting small animals from invertebrates, frogs, lizards to snakes! They rob nests, too.

Urocissa erythroryncha (Boddaert, 1783)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Urocissa
Species: U. erythroryncha

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

紅嘴藍鵲是香港的定居鳥, 廣泛分佈於香港, 特別在香港的半山區。

這一隻是其中一隻在我們基地外玩耍的紅嘴藍鵲, 這些相片是我在喝咖啡的時候拍下來的。

要分辨這隻鳥很容易, 牠的尾巴比一般你在香港看到的鳥類長。這個品種在喜馬拉雅山脈西面, 緬甸, 柬埔寨, 老撾, 越南及中國。

牠們住在山嶺及森林內, 主要以節肢類, 種子及果實為食, 牠們也會搶其他烏類的巢呢。