Chinese man bitten by dead snake he killed for Lunar New Year meal

Reflex in jaws of 70cm-long non-venomous Oriental Rat Snake leads to it biting 60-year-old man’s hand as he skins reptile while preparing soup

Published: SCMP, 30 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

A Chinese man was taken to hospital after being bitten by a snake he had already killed and was planning to eat for a Lunar New Year meal, mainland media reported.

A reflex in the jaws of the dead, non-venomous oriental rat snake led to it biting the 60-year-old man as he was trying to skin it, the news website Qnsb.com reported.

The man, surnamed Wang, had spotted the 70cm-long snake, about as thick as a man’s finger, curled up on the ground as he was taking a walk with his family on Saturday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

Wang thought the snake would make “some nice soup”, the report said.

He killed the snake after hitting it with a stick and a stone and then took it home in a plastic bag.

However, as he was trying to skin it a reflex in the snake’s jaws led to it biting his left hand [literally a case of karma biting back, lol]. His palm became swollen and Wang became dizzy, the report said.

Wang’s family rushed him to hospital and took along the dead snake for doctors to identify.

Dermatologist Ying Hangyu confirmed the dead reptile was of the species Ptyas mucosa, which is commonly known as an Oriental Rat Snake [or Common Rat Snake].

This type of snake was often eaten by people in the south of China, Ying said.

While it was not venomous, the snake could still cause painful bites, which could cause infections, he said.

“Reptiles are known for retaining reflexes after death so they can still bite many minutes after decapitation,” Ying added.

He said people who were bitten by snakes should always to go to hospital immediately, but if was important not to run in case the snake was venomous because this would speed up the circulation of the venom in the victim’s bloodstream.

People should, if possible, also take the snake along to the hospital so doctors could identify it and provide a suitable antidote for the patient.

Ying also warned people to make sure they were aware of their surroundings when spending time outdoors as spring approached and snakes became more active.

The report did not say whether the snake ended up being eaten by Wang and his family.

Hiker dies after falling down cliff on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Accident happened as weather deteriorated over the city

Published: SCMP, 30 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

A man has died after falling down a cliff while hiking on Lantau, police said. [If the video clip below is anything to go by, the ‘trail’ was likely near vertical, so more like rock climbing than hiking!]

A search and rescue operation was launched by the police and the Government Flying Service at noon on Monday [January 30] after it received a report that a man had fallen down a cliff along a rough trail in the Ngong Ping area.

Rescue teams and police eventually found the 59-year-old hiker, surnamed Chan,who was unconscious and had sustained multiple injuries. A helicopter sent to airlift the man to hospital encountered challenging weather conditions.

Around a dozen rescue workers walked along the trail with a stretcher to help the man but he was later certified dead at the scene.

WATCH: Hikers near the scene

Conditions around Hong Kong deteriorated at lunchtime, but it is unclear if the rain or other weather conditions were a factor in the hiker’s fall.

Police confirmed they received a “request for assistance” around noon time. They added: “A man reported to police that he saw another man fall down from a remote location called Fung Yu Pik. Later on a man was found unconscious and subsequently certified dead.”

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and that the hiker had fallen from a height of 60 metres.

Continue reading Hiker dies after falling down cliff on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island

Hong Kong hiker dies after being found unconscious at bottom of Tai Po waterfall

Police believe retiree, 56, may have slipped and fallen while trying to find spot to take photos

Published: SCMP, 20 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

A hiker died after being found unconscious at the bottom of a waterfall off Bride’s Pool Road in Tai Po on Thursday [January 19].

Emergency crews were called at about 4.30pm when the 56-year-old retiree surnamed Lung was found by another hiker.

Firefighters pulled him out of the water and sent him to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po, where he was declared dead at 6.52pm.

Police believed he may have been trying to find a spot from which to take pictures but slipped and fell six metres into the pool below.

The Tuen Mun resident’s backpack and camera were found at the top of the waterfall, while his car was located nearby at Bride’s Pool Road.

Lung’s family has been contacted.

Pic of the Day: Vespa bicolor

black shield wasp

Here’s a Black Shield Wasp (Vespa bicolor) that I personally snapped up close (also using zoom, mind you!) during a recent hike. I only have a phone camera, so it’s not the sharpest pic, unfortunately.

I’m usually terrified of wasps and hornets, but have become somewhat braver ever since I took up hiking, plus this fella barely moved and looked strangely kinda cute. For a hornet, at least!

See more of my wildlife encounters here (still need to grow my list further!).

Late-night snake encounter!

My desktop kinda broke over the holidays, which unfortunately held up work on this site. :/  I am happily back online, however, thanks to a nice new 17″ laptop that I finally set up! 😀

During my unintended leave of absence, I had a most exciting encounter with a snake – not during a hike, as one might expect, but during a late-night walk as I was passing around the back of a residential parking lot on Lantau. Not where you’d normally expect to find a snake!

It had obviously come down from the mountain behind the parking lot. The snake was long and slender, dark in colour, with stripes primarily running down the length of its body. It didn’t like me trying to take its photo (using zoom the whole time, I should add!), as it raised its head a few inches off the ground and fattened its head/neck, which had me freaking out that it might be a cobra!

rat-snake-1
Head raised (check out the creepy shadow), neck inflated and ready to strike! 😮

Not knowing whether it was venomous or not, and fearing it could even be a cobra, I kept a safe distance whilst the snake made its slithery escape back into the planter and open drain, where it seemed to remain. Now, most people would probably leave at this point, but after reviewing my pics and seeing how rubbish they looked, I couldn’t resist gingerly going over to take more, lol.

rat-snake-2
Escaping back into the planter and open drain on the other side from whence it came

Since the snake was no longer out in the open, I felt emboldened to deploy my phone camera’s flash, which really ticked it off, as it raised itself up again and lunged at me. Luckily, I was standing back and out of range, but that was a pretty whoa moment – and quite the adrenaline rush! Actually, the whole encounter was an adrenaline rush!!

My best photo is still pretty rubbish, but I didn’t want to tempt fate any further, and at least you can make out the snake’s head, one glowing eye, its puffed out neck (so not a hood, and thus not a cobra, phew!), and some markings. Upon further research (known as Googling, lol), it turns out that what I encountered was a Copperhead Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiatus).

rat-snake
My best rubbish photo, lol. At least I managed to capture the correct end of the snake, which I was later able to identify as a Copperhead Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiatus)

Copperhead Rat Snakes are thankfully non-venomous, but they are apparently swift, aggressive attackers and biters when cornered or handled. They are also known to raise up their heads by several inches and inflate their necks to make themselves appear bigger and more threatening, not unlike a cobra, and just as I had witnessed. Venomous or not, given their propensity to attack and bite, methinks it’s a good thing I kept my distance! 😮

Upturn in hiking in Hong Kong has a downside, as solitude becomes increasingly hard to find

Hikers are turning out in huge numbers to enjoy the city’s picturesque nature trails, making it ever harder to get away from the crowds; these days you even have to queue to start walking, reports Martin Williams

Published: SCMP, 22 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

It’s not unusual these days to venture into Hong Kong’s countryside to get away from it all, only to find it teeming with other hikers seeking an escape from city life. Sometimes you even have to queue to start walking on a trail.

Little more than a decade ago, this scenario would have been unthinkable. I’ve been hiking in Hong Kong for 30 years, and have seen a remarkable upturn in the numbers of people heading to the outdoors. I recall wondering why people were seemingly so uninterested in the countryside, and becoming one of perhaps five or so bird photographers in the city, compared to the hundreds there are now.

I walked the Dragon’s Back when the path there was barely known, visited remote Tung Ping Chau when its cafes still had only a handful of tables. And, in my memory at least, there was never the hassle of queuing for buses to get home after outings.

The first major upturn in the number of people heading out to Hong Kong’s countryside happened during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, when it suddenly became less enticing to mingle with crowds in shopping malls. More recently, I’ve also observed a noticeable increase in visitors to once quiet destinations such as Shui Hau or Yi O on Lantau, after publicity in print and social media.

And getting away from it all may become even harder in future. In an effort to reinvent the region’s image to holidaymakers, the Hong Kong Tourism Board rolled out a “Best of All, It’s in Hong Kong” campaign in 2016, including posters touting its “great outdoors”.

“Promoting Hong Kong’s natural ecology and landscape is part of the HKTB’s long-term strategies for marketing Hong Kong as a travel destination,” a board spokesman says, adding that it has also recently published a new Great Outdoors Hong Kong guidebook featuring the Geopark and a series of guided tours.

“In the future, we will continue to work closely with the travel trade to develop and promote tourism products featuring Hong Kong’s natural scenery so as to broaden Hong Kong’s appeal,” the board says.

Continue reading Upturn in hiking in Hong Kong has a downside, as solitude becomes increasingly hard to find

Hong Kong’s official air quality index failing to warn on deadly health hazard

Hong Kong’s official Air Quality Health Index is creating a false sense of security by consistently failing to consider dangerous levels of PM2.5, the fine particulate matter associated with lung disease, warns Paul Stapleton

Published: SCMP, 12 Jan 2017
Link to the original article here

Each morning after waking up, I look out of the window at the clarity of the air and then check two websites that give air pollution readings for Hong Kong.

Admittedly, my first action is very subjective. Air clarity is a crude way to measure pollution levels, especially during months that tend to be foggy. This is why I check the indexes on those two sites. Then, I decide whether to go out for a jog or stay indoors on the treadmill.

One of the websites is run by the Environmental Protection Department. It makes air-quality forecasts and generates a real-time Air Quality Health Index scaled from 1 to 10+, or “low” to “serious”. The other site is the reputable World Air Quality Index, which measures only particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), one-thirtieth the width of a human hair.

These microscopic particles that just hang in the air are known to penetrate deep into our lungs when we breathe. They mostly come from vehicle exhausts, the burning of coal to make electricity and other industrial activities. They are also known to be hazardous to health, especially of children; PM2.5 is associated with lung diseases, including cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease.

During the past week, the air pollution forecast on the local TV news each day, presumably taken from the government service, was for “low” to “medium” levels. However, at the World Air Quality Index, PM2.5 levels have been in excess of 100 for several days running. The US Environmental Protection Agency puts the 24-hour and annual standard for PM2.5 at 35 and 15 respectively.

Thus, on days when Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department was informing the public that the level of air pollution was forecast to be low to medium, the amount of PM2.5 – arguably the mostly deadly pollutant – exceeded safe levels by a big margin.

scmp-hk-aqhi

Continue reading Hong Kong’s official air quality index failing to warn on deadly health hazard

Manhunt for two men who robbed hikers along Eagle’s Nest Nature Trail

Police say search for culprits is difficult because the Eagle’s Nest area is large and they could be hiding anywhere

Published: SCMP, 28 Dec 2016
Link to the original article here

Over 100 police officers have been mobilised in a continuing manhunt for two men suspected to have robbed hikers, the police said on Wednesday [December 28].

The two men, who spoke Putonghua, were believed to have committed the robberies [in Lion Rock Country Park] along Eagle’s Nest Nature Trail above Cheung Sha Wan on Tuesday [December 27].

The suspects in their 40s wielded fruit knives when they robbed cash and mobile phones from a woman and a family of four at two different locations along the trail.

“We have conducted searches yesterday and also today, but so far no suspected hiding places have been found in the area,” a police spokesman said.

He said it was uncertain whether the robbers were operating in a group, but he said both cases were very similar.

The manhunt was difficult as the hill was large and so the two suspects could be hiding anywhere, the police said. No hikers were previously robbed on the Eagle’s Nest trail in the past year.

But the force believed the two robberies should not be related to a string of burglaries over Christmas.

The first robbery took place at 12.15pm on Tuesday, when a man wearing a dark jacket and long trousers threatened a 66-year-old lone hiker with a 20cm knife and robbed her of a cellphone worth HK$1,500, a HK$600 watch and money.

She sustained injuries to her fingers.

Just 25 minutes later a woman, 45, and her three children aged seven to 19 were robbed of two phones, HK$1,300 in cash and a gold necklace worth about HK$2,000 by a man described as being about 40 and holding a 15cm knife. He was wearing a white shirt, dark-coloured long trousers and a cap.

The two incidents did not deter people from hiking on Wednesday.

“I knew about the robberies but I am not afraid. I am not hiking by myself and I brought an umbrella just in case anything happens so I can protect myself,” a 60-year-old hiker said.

Another said he also knew about the robberies but said: “I don’t think the robbers dare to mess with me.”

The trail, which begins and ends on Tai Po Road, is located inside Lion Rock Country Park. It is popular with hikers because it offers fine views of Kowloon Reservoir, which was completed in 1910 and was the first water storage facility to serve Kowloon.