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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.