Categories
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Africa Americas Asia Australia Europe HK Species Profiles Turtles

Green Sea Turtle – Hong Kong Wildlife | 綠海龜 – 香港野生動物

Did you know that sea turtles would come to Hong Kong?

There are 7 species of sea turtles in the world, and surprisingly all of them have been spotted in Hong Kong waters. How amazing!

Our most frequent visitor is the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Young turtles are carnivores, preying on crabs, shrimps, jellyfish, and squid. Adults are herbivores, feeding on seaweed.

It is an endangered species, but can be found in all tropical oceans around the world including Hong Kong. They even came ashore! Sham Wan in Lamma Island has a small population known to nest on a regular basis. Only 2 records of nesting outside Lamma Island: Once in Big Wave Bay Beach, Shek O in 2000. Another time in another big wave bay, Tai Long Wan Beach, Sai Kung in 2006.

Oh! Those mama turtles must be surfers. They love big waves!

Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Chelonioidea
Family: Cheloniidae
Subfamily: Cheloniinae
Genus: Chelonia
Species: mydas

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

你知道海龜會到訪香港嗎?

世界上有7種海龜, 意想不到7種都曾經被發現出沒過於香港水域, 真的很神奇!

我們最常見的訪客是Chelonia mydas 綠海龜, 年輕的綠海龜是肉食性動物, 會吃魚蝦蟹及魷魚。成年的綠海龜是草食性動物 主要以海藻為食。

綠海龜是瀕危物種, 但可以在所有熱帶的海洋找得到, 包括香港, 牠們甚至會上岸! 南丫島的深灣沙灘是香港唯一經常有綠海龜產卵的地點, 於南丫島以外, 只有2次紀錄。於2000年一次在石澳大浪灣, 另一次於2006年在西貢大浪灣。

噢 綠海龜媽媽們必定是衝浪者, 牠們都喜歡大浪!

Categories
Africa Me

Big Cats Roaming Freely In The Wild May Not Always Be The Lucky Ones

Everyone is talking about “Tiger King”. Now you probably have an idea how big cats are kept in captivity. You may think that they could have a better life if they were in their natural habitats. I have spent a lot of time in Africa, and I did not always see a paradise.

This is a lucky one rescued from canned hunting (being kept in a confined, fenced-in area for trophy hunting which is surprisingly legal in some African countries). ⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I don’t know what to say. Nowadays we can’t just seem to tell our kids it’s okay to do anything they like as long as it’s not illegal. There are so many ridiculously wrong activities that are legal, such as canned hunting as an entertainment or a sport. ⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Legality is not a guide for morality.

Categories
Africa Americas Snakes

Why Kobe Bryant is called Black Mamba but The Snake is Not Black

One of my closest Black Mamba encounters in Ethiopia

Why did Kobe Bryant choose Black Mamba when there are cobra, viper, rattlesnake, tiger snake, krait, and 600 other venomous snakes in the world?

Let me recap a few cool things about this snake probably most people didn’t know:

Why “Black” Mamba When It’s Not Black?
Its body is not black but olive, yellowish-brown, khaki or gunmetal. It has a coffin-shaped head. When this coffin opens shows an unusually dark bluish-grey to nearly black mouth. Most other snakes have a regular pinkish mouth.

The Most Venomous?
No, the Black mamba is not the most venomous snake. Actually far from it. It’s only the 53rd most venomous snake in terms of toxicity of venom (0.264). ‭That is 264‬ times weaker than the most venomous snake (0.001).

The Largest?
No, the Black mamba is a very long snake (up to over 14 feet) but is still much smaller than the king cobra, not to mention the pythons and anaconda.

Eats Big Prey?
Not at all. It mainly feeds on small birds, bats or rodents that weigh only less than 6% of its body mass.

Then Why So Deadly?
It’s the speed. The Black Mamba is the fastest snake on earth. Even though its venom is far from the most toxic ones but still its bite can kill a human in less than 30 minutes.

I find this species harder to catch and handle than most other venomous snakes especially when in trees. Deadly offense and unbeatable defense at the same time. I’d say encountering/catching a King Cobra is a deadly experience. But when it comes to a Black Mamba in tree, IMHO, it’s an even worse nightmare…

Categories
Africa

Redemption Song Of My 2 Months In Madagascar

Categories
Africa HK

My Accomplishments in 2018

A lot has happened this year. To the now me, 2017 is so five years ago.

January & February

Kenya- Went on a decent, British colonial style safari which was not quite typical of me.

Uganda- Found and got up close and personal with a band of wild Mountain Gorillas up to 400+ lbs. and they literally grabbed my leg.

Uganda- Face to face with the biggest shoebill I’ve seen.

Uganda- Spent a fortune in World’s no. 3 poorest country – paid directly to local people for the products they made barehand.

Kenya- Took care of orphaned rhinos, elephants, lions and cheetahs. Gave each of them a sweet hug.

March

Kenya- Witnessed death of the World’s last male northern white rhino.
Not an accomplishment but a heart-breaking moment that lest we forget.

Hong Kong- My Tesla turned 1 year old. I helped save the environment by not burning 2,500 liters of fuel in a year. Zero-emission, no noise, no heat, too.

April

Hong Kong- New milestone for wildlife education where Jurassic Garage started getting more invites from local Chinese schools. While we have been being invited to international schools every month for the last decade, local schools is a new area for us to spread education to a much wider community.

May

I have proudly become a character in a new book by Marianne Andersen.

June

Been putting a bunch of critters on Coco Chiang (蔣怡)’s naked body for a maternity shoot to promote appreciation of cold-blooded animals. Her baby was born merely a few hours after the shoot.

August & September

Madagascar- 183 wild chameleon findings.

Madagascar- Got robbed by AK-47ers during a road trip.

Madagascar- Ultimate herpetological goal achieved- Finding wild Ploughshare tortoises!!! There’s an “S” after the word tortoise.

Madagascar- Free climbed a big fat baobab barefoot.

Madagascar- Spent a fortune in the World’s ninth poorest country – paid directly to local people for the products they made barehand.

Indian Ocean- The oldest animal I’ve ever met. 200+ years old Giant Tortoises.

December

Hong Kong- My first wildlife themed restaurant launched in Central. I named it Animojo. Not only a first for me, but it’s also a brand new concept to the market combining the promotion of conservation and moral dining experience together. After months of antenatal care, my first baby was born at the littest spot in Central.

Categories
Africa

When Kong Boy Meets Kong Band

Kong boy is me (Hong Kong).

Kong band is a group of gorillas (not the British virtual band but a group of gorillas is called a band).

I’m going to share my Kong moment – The biggest animal I’ve touched in the wild in 2018 was the Silverback Mountain Gorilla of Uganda! I also bear hugged the “more common” lions, rhinos, and elephants I worked with but they were in sanctuaries so the wild Gorilla is my biggest wild beast of the year. And, I didn’t hug him. He hugged me! Too ginormous bucket list encounter not to share.

So I went on my expedition to Uganda earlier this year in the search of the real-life King Kong. Not the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus but the largest extant primate – the Eastern Gorilla.

It is much rarer than the western gorilla. There are 2 subspecies – Eastern lowland gorilla and Mountain gorilla. In Uganda, we can possibly find the much rarer subspecies, the Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), if we’re lucky.

Before you can try your luck searching for gorillas, first you need to know where exactly to go. This subspecies is only possible to be found in 3 countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. They are more easily reached in Rwanda and DR Congo. But in Uganda, there is something else I like more. It’s even more raw and real. In here I chose to climb up to over 8,000 feet above sea level in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park situated along DR Congo border.

My armed guide and I spent hours climbing and finding a number of chameleons and other reptiles. They’re very interesting but we had to keep going as there’s not much time to find the gorillas before it’s dark.

Categories
Africa

The Rarest in Madagascar

The Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora), or Angonoka tortoise, may look like just any tortoise to most people. But if you know a bit about reptiles you would realize this is the number 1 rarest tortoise in the world. It is also one of the top 10 rarest animals on earth – significantly rarer than the giant panda.

This species is always number 1 on my list of wild animals I wish to encounter in Madagascar. Finally, after decades, I have achieved this ultimate goal. I found the Angonoka!

Throughout the past decades, from time to time, I’ve seen a number of juvenile to sub-adult Ploughshare tortoises in captivity, from high-end black market which is the main threat of the species. I’ve also seen a few in sanctuaries I used to work with. It already gave me goosebumps seeing real ones in captivity. I was always hoping to find a wild one since teenage. However, like over 99% of people in the world, I had never got a chance to encounter a wild Ploughshare tortoise and it remained my ultimate herpetological goal.

Categories
Africa Lizards

Chameleons in Madagascar I Encountered

In my last 6-week trip to Madagascar, I have been to most of the districts in the country except the extreme north such as Nosy Be where I already visited a few times in the past. I went on field trips every day (and night). There have been 183 chameleons in my findings. Here I’m collecting highlight photos of some of the chameleons I found during the herping trips.

If you will be visiting Madagascar for wildlife you will never miss the chameleons. There are about 202 known species of chameleons in the world, while 89+ of them are endemic to Madagascar. The rest of the family mainly hail from sub-Saharan Africa. Malagasy species are classified into 3 genera: Calumma,  Furcifer, and Brookesia.

Categories
Africa Amphibians

Frogs in Madagascar I Encountered

Frogs are the only amphibians in Madagascar. There are no toads, salamanders, newts, or caecilians.

Malagasy painted mantella (Mantella madagascariensis)

Categories
Africa Lizards

Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

There are over 300 species of lizards in Madagascar. During the trip, I’ve come across countless lizards that were mostly Chameleons, Leaf-tailed geckos, and Day geckos.

Other than these 3 popular types of lizards, there had been some
lesser-known species I found that are no less interesting.

Three-eyed lizard (Chalarodon madagascariensis)

One of the 8 species of Malagasy iguanas. It is also called Malagasy collared lizard. I found them in Ifaty (south) and Morondava (west).

Categories
Africa Lizards

Day Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Phelsuma is a genus of geckos mostly found in Mauritius and Madagascar. Day geckos are especially easier for me to spot than other geckos not only because of their bright green color but also their unusually diurnal behavior. I found them not only in the field but also in many of the rooms I stayed just like house geckos.

Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis)

Categories
Africa Lizards

Leaf-tailed Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Uroplatus is a genus of geckos, commonly known as leaf-tail geckos, which are endemic to Madagascar. If you think chameleons are experts at camouflage I’d say the leaf-tailed geckos are the masters of camouflage. At some point, they could be at the same difficulty level to spot in the jungle as stick insects. Not only does their tail resemble a leaf, most of their body parts are exactly like tree branch textures. Locals describe them as “half plant, half animal”. Luckily I have found a number of them during my trip to Madagascar.

Giant leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus)

Categories
Africa Mammals

Lemurs in Madagascar I Encountered

Indri (Indri indri)

Once upon a time, there were extinct lemurs as big as gorillas. Today, the Indri is the largest extant lemur species. But it is critically endangered, too.

Categories
Africa Mammals

Mammals in Madagascar I Encountered

Most of my sightings of mammals in Madagascar are lemurs, obviously. I’d put them in another post – Lemurs in Madagascar I Encountered

Lemurs are attractive but I wouldn’t forget that there were many interesting and lesser-known mammals I encountered in Madagascar.

Lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

Surprisingly, the tenrecs are related to sea cows and elephants but not hedgehogs! They look largely similar to hedgehogs of mainland Africa as a result of convergent evolution. Don’t judge an animal by its look. This species is endemic to the southern and southwestern parts of Madagascar. I found most of the tenrecs in Ifaty, southern Madagascar.

Categories
Africa

Aye-aye, Devil of Madagascar

This is one of the Aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) I found in Madagascar. They are lemurs but quite a different one. Despite their large body size, the Aye-ayes took me a lot longer to find than other lemurs.

It means death when its elongated middle finger points at someone, locals believe. The Aye-aye would scare the poop out of most (even local) people if they encounter one at night in the woods. But for me, I was feeling soooo lucky and blessing that I got a chance to encounter with the most bizarre-looking animal on the island.


I can’t think of any other creatures that would be a better fit for me to share on Halloween. The title of “Devil of Madagascar” is the reason why most of the Aye-ayes got killed by local people. Comparing to poaching or game hunting, this kind of killing is even more ridiculous. I’ve told every Malagasy people I met about this wrong belief and most of them understood and agreed not to kill them anymore.

Categories
Africa

Baobab and Tortoise Symbiosis

The largest succulent and the most trafficked tortoise.

So old, so slow, yet (probably) not too wise.

The other night with the full moon, I was there in the extreme south of Madagascar watching these 2 symbolic Malagasy creatures living in harmonic symbiosis. I was sitting next to both of them all night and loving them both, like a triangle.

Both the Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) and Baobabs (Adansonia sp) have been living a slow-paced life for 88 million years, which city people are recently getting to understand.

Not only are these creatures slow, but they are also stubborn as w(h)ell. They’d stick with their lifestyle despite the fact that the force of uptempo pace from the outside world had arrived in such remote “natural” habitats. The title of critically endangered species ain’t no scare any feces outta’em. They’d rather not change to fit in.

The extinction of a species could be normal. However, it seems it’s happening over 1,000 times faster than it’s supposed to.

Categories
Africa

I Climbed up a Big Fat Baobab

To celebrate my encounter with the super rare Ploughshare tortoises in Madagascar, I decided to free climb the biggest baobab in the area barefoot.

These chubby beauties are straight and surprisingly smooth. Baobabs are so much harder to climb than most trees. I still ain’t sure how I managed to climb up so high. I was feeling like a lizard.

Not only are the fruits superfood, but the baobabs are also beneficial to humans in hundreds of ways. But like most of the creatures in Madagascar, these trees are facing extinction, too. Mighty, yet fragile.

Categories
Africa

My Oldest New Friend The Aldabra Giant Tortoise

200+ years old is the age of this tortoise I was told. It might be exaggerated but still, I think this is the oldest animal I have ever met. I had to check history books to imagine how the world was like when this old folk was a 3-inch small hatchling.

Giant tortoises are proven the longest-living land animals and the longest-living reptiles, with the oldest recorded at 152.

The Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) is the world’s largest tortoise, together with the Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra).

This Aldabra giant tortoise is the most baby-faced old folk I’ve ever encountered. My fisheye lens even helped me to magnify the cuteness which seems like a good way to let more people appreciate these long-lived, peaceful animals. Despite the very long, tough journey before reaching their natural habitat, they’re among the easiest animal for me to photograph.

We indeed ought to keep them away from unnatural harm because our ancestors massacred and eliminated at least 35 species and subspecies of their ancestors (giant tortoises) within a very short period of only 250 years. Now, the Aldabra tortoise of the Aldabra Atoll is the only species left in islands of the Indian Ocean.

Categories
Africa Mammals

World’s Last Male of This Rhino Dies

Kenya

So long, Sudan!

As a dinosaur fan when I was a kid, co-existing with some still living triceratops on earth inside the timeline of my life was hope, heuristic and what made me go on. But now I’m grown and I’ve learned more. It just leaves tears.

After Suni died 4 years ago, Sudan became the last surviving male Northern white rhinoceros in the world. And he died yesterday in Kenya at the age of 45.

The remaining of the subspecies are 2 females, daughter and granddaughter of Sudan. Although Sudan had his sperm frozen and stored and cloning may sound like an option, the subspecies will still probably have to be declared extinct following the West African black rhino and Vietnamese Javan rhino which were both declared extinct 7 years ago.

All of the rhinos gone extinct human witnessed were subspecies. The African rhino that is closer to a full species extinction is the Black rhino.

Just in case if you didn’t know, as the media coverage is mainly on the African species, the rhinos which are facing much more critical situations are the Asian species. There are around 25,000 African rhinos left. Less than 4,000 Asian rhinos are left where the Javan rhino (full species) being one of the most endangered mammals on earth. 2 out of 3 subspecies of the Javan rhino have gone extinct. The last subspecies (Indonesian Javan rhino) population is estimated at around 63 left. The most endangered subspecies of rhino is the Bornean rhino which only around 15 individuals left in total.

Rhinoceros have lived on earth for over 25 million years. Having experienced them gone extinct one by one during merely 7 years within our human lives is just plain devastating, irrecoverably.

Categories
Africa Birds

Face to Face with the Biggest Shoebill

No, it’s not the bill you pay for your Air Jordan.

The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) or whalehead, is a very large stork-like bird. This is one I’ve come across in Uganda. In front of such a prehistoric looking creature with a wingspan of over 8 feet, you better stay low like what I did in the photo. It’s not that we should be scared of them. That’s respect.

Categories
Africa

Typical Safari Is Not Typical of Me

I just went on a decent, British colonial style safari watching the big five in Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Such a typical safari for some who’s been working with wild animals for decades. Why did I feel brand new? It’s because it’s not hands-on. My eyes had plenty to see but my hands had nothing to grab. Oh right, cameras.

Trying new things feels good. Not of my major interest but I did know how to enjoy the journey and got inspired.

I did tons of photos, though. Here’s one. More to add later.