Category Archives: Nature

ICYMI: July 16 – World Snake Day!?

There are dedicated ‘days’ for practically everything nowadays, it seems. Even so, I was still surprised to discover on Monday that this Sunday past (July 16) was in fact World Snake Day. Wow, there’s a day for that? Who knew? Well, I do now – and so do you – so belated happy World Snake Day! Or should that be World Ssssnake Day? :p

In any case, World Snake Day is not an international day observed by the United Nations, so I don’t know how official it is, but it was official enough for National Geographic to publish this neat photo gallery of various snake species from around the world: See 22 Spectacular Pictures of Snakes (gotta like NatGeo’s no-nonsense headline, haha).

My favourite is #17, the Texas Coral Snake with the ringed colour and pattern mutation, as shown below (apparently this species is usually banded, not spotted). Stunning! Kinda looks like a bunch of Mexican black beans on oval nachos floating down a fiery river of hot Tabasco sauce. ‘Tex-Mex’ Coral Snake might be more appropriate in this instance, lol.

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Stunning Texas Coral Snake with atypical spots instead of bands / Photo: NatGeo

To do my part to celebrate World Snake Day, yesterday I shared the following two pics of me with snakes to my new Facebook page and Instagram profile (theaccidentalhiker on both). That’s me below holding up a very large and super hefty albino python a few years back in Singapore. A pretty chunky fella, I must say, and certainly the largest and heaviest snake I’ve ever handled!

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Whoa, now that’s a whole lotta solid snake! #albinopython #sizematters #toobigtofail

Thankfully for me, the python was recently fed, as you can tell from the odd bulge in its neck belly body (damn snek anatomy, you crazy, lol) near my elbow at far left. That must have been some meal! Oh, and excuse the attempt at preserving my online anonymity, haha. I’m actually making a kissy face in the undoctored pic, so it’s practically the same thing anyway. :p

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Greater Green Snake at the Pui O snake talk this May #emeraldbeauty #adorable #iwant

Rare white fox found on Lantau hiking trail

Animal, which is not native to Hong Kong, was rescued by authorities and is now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Published: SCMP, 16 Jul 2017
Link to the original article here

A rare species of wild fox not native to Hong Kong was found trapped on a Lantau Island trail on Friday night [July 14] and was later rescued by firefighters, prompting authorities to investigate where the animal had come from.

The 1.5 ft-long fluffy white marble fox was now being cared for by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [SPCA] after it was picked up by a pair of hikers in a diversion channel at around 10pm Friday night.

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A society spokeswoman said that although the fox did not sustain any injuries and was able to eat, it looked skinny and frightened.

“The fox is scared of people. We do not know its sex and age at the moment as our vets cannot do a check-up on it. We will let it rest in a quiet environment for now,” she said, adding that it was in stable condition.

“We have to isolate the fox in our Kowloon centre as a wild fox might carry rabies.”

The group said the red fox was the native species to Hong Kong but had been all but wiped out, whereas the marble fox was a wild species.

“We do not rule out that someone brought it from abroad and kept it as a pet. The owner later dumped it or it got lost somewhere,” the spokeswoman said.

She added the group stayed in contact with Kadoorie Farm and departments including the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to discuss further arrangements for the creature. Adoption is not possible since it is a wild animal.

The police confirmed that a 27-year-old hiker, surnamed Chan, reported the case at 10:27pm. Fire officers were called to the scene to rescue the fox, which was later picked up by animal inspectors from the SPCA.

Hiker Ivan Li uploaded pictures of the fox on his Facebook page, saying that he found it trapped in the diversion channel when he was hiking with a friend. He described the fox as “very skinny and (looks) very hungry”.

“The fox was hobbling. I thought it was injured. I felt like it was hungry, so I gave it my bread,” he wrote.

He later reported the case to the police and the SPCA.

Pic of the Day: Clear Water Bay

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Here’s a stunning view of Clear Water Bay from High Junk Peak. Love the turquoise waters, which is a rarity in Hong Kong (a murky green is the norm). The breathtaking scenery more than made up for the steep, sweaty hike up to the super pointy summit, with the fab views continuing all the way down the (thankfully) much gentler descent.

I did this hike (High Junk Peak Country Trail) around three months ago, starting at Heng Hau and finishing up at Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay (missed out on the big Tin Hau Festival celebrations by a couple of hours, doh!), before crossing over to the small fishing village of Po Toi O. A great afternoon hike that took me far away from my usual trails, so a nice change to boot!

Incidentally, if you like nature photography, in particular flora and fauna pics, check out my dedicated pages on wild Hong Kong flowers and plants and local wildlife encounters, which contain lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on my various hikes and walks. Enjoy!

Two men in hospital after Hong Kong wild boar goes on rampage

A dozen police officers and conservation workers sent to capture the animal in Tseung Kwan O

Published: SCMP, 24 Jun 2017
Link to the original article here

One of the city’s wild boar gave police and conservation officials the runaround in Tseung Kwan O early on Saturday morning [June 24], injuring two people in the process [as well as making international news: here’s a CBS video clip of the poorly handled incident].

Police received a report just after 7:30am that a boar had been spotted on the side of the road by bushes near Lohas Park.

A policeman responding to the call [stupidly] kicked the 60kg boar whilst trying to catch it. That caused the animal to attack the officer and a nearby elderly cyclist.

While the pig was on the rampage, it smashed into an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department [AFCD] van, denting its side.

Raising concerns about the treatment of the pig, the Wild Boar Concern Group said the animal had been provoked, and was defending itself.

The 73-year-old cyclist suffered injuries to his arms, back and legs. The police officer, 34, fell over and hurt his arm. Both men were taken to Tseung Kwan O hospital.

About 12 police officers and officials from the AFCD were sent to capture and restrain the animal, which was eventually subdued with nets, [riot] shields and a rope tied round its neck. The boar was taken away.

The case is not the first time a wild boar has run amok in Hong Kong’s urban areas.

In December last year, a 50kg wild pig haplessly wandered into the restricted zone at Hong Kong International Airport, alongside planes and airport vehicles. It was hit by an airport vehicle [not what was reported at the time, interestingly], and had to be put down.

Wild boars also fancy a spot of retail therapy. Back in 2015, one of the porcine pedestrians strayed into a shopping mall in Chai Wan, causing much disturbance.

[See also Second wild boar encounter over weekend as four animals subdued in Aberdeen, Hong Kong, which occurred the very next day following the above incident, so on June 25. Fortunately, no wild boars were kicked this time and nobody was injured.]

Know your venomous snakes! And what to do if one bites you…

Snake season has arrived in Hong Kong, so here’s a brief introduction to some of the main venomous land snakes you might stumble across (not literally, I hope!) whilst out hiking, trail walking or visiting a country park, and what to do if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by one (also published as a static page here). But first, a quick lesson in terminology!

Poisonous vs Venomous

These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably, but simply put, poisons are secreted (so bad to touch or eat), whilst venoms are mechanically delivered (so via fangs, stingers or spines, etc.). Both poisons and venoms are toxins, which is the umbrella term for all harmful (organic) substances. The difference is in the delivery: poisons are passively ‘delivered’ for defensive purposes; venoms are actively delivered primarily for offensive (but also defensive) purposes.

‘Toxic’ snakes are thus largely venomous, although there are a handful that are also poisonous like the Red-necked Keelback, which has both a venomous rear bite (rarely utilised) as well as poisonous neck secretions acquired through its scrumptious diet of poisonous toads (clearly not poisonous enough in this instance, lol). Cute, non-aggressive snake, though, so have no fear! Especially since the Red-necked Keelback can often be found hanging out on local trails during the day.

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Remember: If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous. If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous. :p This frog looks rightfully cheesed off, I should add, lol

poisonous vs venomous cartoon

Hong Kong’s Venomous Snakes

Here’s a table from Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) showing our most common venomous land snakes. I cropped out the rarer venomous species and non-lethal ones. For the complete listing, with active links to further details on each snake species, see the original table here. See also the external links at the bottom of this page for more comprehensive information and guides on Hong Kong snakes, both venomous and non.

In summary, however, the kraits and cobras are the ones to be the most wary of, as they pack the most lethal bites. The Coral Snake is also lethal but fairly secretive, whilst the Red-necked Keelback is pretty docile and only bad if it gets with you with its rear fangs, which is rare. The Bamboo Pit Viper (pictured at top) is both aggressive and venomous (bad combo!), accounting for most snake bites in Hong Kong, but fortunately it’s not very lethal. Phew!

Also worth noting, of the snakes below, all are strictly or nearly always nocturnal, except for the cobras and Red-necked Keelback. So, if you stick to daytime hikes and walks, it’s only cobras that you really need to watch out for. I say “only cobras” like it’s no big deal, lol, but you catch my drift. Problem is cobras can be easily confused with non-venomous rat snakes, which are also diurnal, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution! Don’t forget, cobras look just like regular snakes when their hoods are down…

hk venomous snakes chart
Source: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)

Continue reading Know your venomous snakes! And what to do if one bites you…

Pic of the Day: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Funky caterpillar with a big appetite, unfortunately species unknown

I spotted this very hungry caterpillar out of the corner of my eye soon after passing Discovery Bay’s Lo Fu Tau a few weeks back. Love the funky colours, ‘design’ and prickly barbs. No idea of the species or what it turns into, unfortunately, or whether it’s toxic in any way, so if anyone knows, do tell me in the comments section. Thanks!

You can see more of my local wildlife encounters here – it’s an ongoing work in progress! (I seriously need to chance upon more snakes, lol.) If you’re interested, I also have a page dedicated to wild Hong Kong flowers and plants, with lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on my hikes and walks.

Snakes galore at Pui O snake talk!

Yesterday afternoon, William Sargent, one of Hong Kong’s leading self-taught ‘snake guys’ (read: catcher, rescuer and all-round snake expert/enthusiast), held an excellent info session at Pui O on the slithery subject, which saw a solid turnout of interested folk. The talk primarily focused on snake identification, venomous species in Hong Kong, and what to do if bitten and by what, in addition to educating people about snakes generally as a way to help remove the fear factor and promote respect for our legless neighbours.

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Event speaker William Sargent, one of Hong Kong’s leading self-taught ‘snake guys’

The session was detailed, informative and participatory, with lots of questions thrown at and asked by the fascinated audience. There were even a dozen or so wild snakes on display that William had specifically caught for the event in the days prior, which was an added bonus. At the end, William handled a Copperhead Rat Snake and an extra feisty Common/Oriental Rat Snake, before inviting several audience members to take on some very cute and gentle Greater Green Snakes (naturally, I was one of the first to volunteer!).

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William displaying a Copperhead Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiatus)
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Woo-hoo, me handling (for quite some time, too) an adorable Greater Green Snake! They are so utterly cute and gentle. I want one, lol

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and the opportunity to see so many wild species up close, from the non-venomous Copperhead Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiatus), Common/Oriental Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa) and Greater Green Snake (Cyclophiops major) to the venomous Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus helleri), Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris), Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) and very lethal Many-banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus) 😮 , plus more! Below are some cool snake pics I took at the event.

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Greater Green Snake (Cyclophiops major)
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Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus helleri)
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Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris)
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Chinese Cobra (Naja atra)
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Many-banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus)

Thanks to William Sargent (speaker), Living Islands Movement (organisers) and GardenPlus (venue), plus the slithery stars of the event! See also this recent interview with William and consider joining his Facebook group “Hong Kong Snakes” (it’s a closed group with over 2,500 members at the time of writing) if you have an interest in snakes, snake identification and/or need a snake removed or relocated.

Pic of the Day: Taiwan Kukri Snake

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Taiwan Kukri Snake (Oligodon formosanus)

I recently did my first hike in a while, having switched to a stint of power walking in the weeks prior, and lo and behold I saw a snake! We have entered snake season after all, but that’s still pretty cool to see a snake on my ‘first’ hike. Not only did I stumble upon a live one, but this was the first time I was able to properly photograph one of my rare snake encounters. How exciting!

What we have here is a Taiwan Kukri Snake (Oligodon formosanus), a medium-sized non-venomous snake that is reportedly uncommon but widely distributed in Hong Kong. Its enlarged rear teeth apparently resemble Nepalese kukri knives, hence the name. Check out the cool head and eye markings, plus the lilac highlights along its body.

I was hiking up to Lo Fu Tau in DB when I spotted the snake literally just hanging out on the dirt trail in front of me. It made no attempt to escape, only curling up closer to the grass once it got fed up with my continued presence, lol. In fact, it was so brave and motionless for the first while, I initially thought it might be dead, but it was very much alive, believe me!

See more of my local wildlife encounters here – it’s an ongoing work in progress! If you’re interested, I also have a page dedicated to wild Hong Kong flowers and plants, with lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on hikes and walks.

Pic of the Day: Sunset off Tai O

tai o sunset
All that glitters may not be real gold, but sometimes it’s better!

I recently walked Lantau’s Tung O Ancient Trail from Tung Chung to Tai O, and what a lovely (albeit sweaty!) trek that turned out to be. 🙂  Great company (“the best”, lol), a good pace throughout and gorgeous views like this one, which I managed to capture as we neared Tai O at the start of an overcast sunset.

If you’re poetically inclined, I guess you could say it looks like honey from the heavens pouring through the clouds and turning into liquid gold upon hitting the water. In any case, stunning! Thanks ZB for the fab company. 😉  That was a truly great day! 😀

Incidentally, if you like nature photography, in particular flora and fauna pics, check out my dedicated pages on wild Hong Kong flowers and plants and local wildlife encounters, which contain lots of photos personally taken by me whilst out and about on my various hikes and walks. Enjoy!

Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago

Protected animals getting trapped in concrete nullah on Lantau Island despite calls for action

Published: SCMP, 15 Apr 2017
Link to the original article here

Hong Kong’s barking deer are still dying and being injured in the same concrete-lined catchwater drain that the South China Morning Post revealed was harming the animals two years ago.

The concrete structure between Tong Fuk and Shek Pik on Lantau Island remains a major hazard for the creatures, which have been climbing down into the nullah to drink water before realising they are trapped.

Four deer have fallen in over the past month, despite animal welfare campaigners having spoken to the government about the issue in 2015. Activists said at least two of those deer died from their injuries or starvation, while the others were seriously injured, often to their hooves or horns, meaning they eventually had to be euthanised after being captured.

Campaigners are furious that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has ignored their calls to build exits for the deer within the Water Supplies Department’s (WSD) catchment.

Jacqui Green, founder of animal rights charity Protection of Animals Lantau South, said three deer had been trapped in the catchwater within just 12 days.

“These gentle, graceful but extremely shy and sensitive creatures are a protected species in Hong Kong,” she said. “Almost two years have elapsed [since the group highlighted the problem] and these animals are still dying. It is very disappointing, and also deeply distressing for those of us actively involved with the protection of the deer, to realise just how little has been achieved by the WSD and the AFCD since our initial meeting in May 2015. These are protected animals and essentially all we are asking for is a serious commitment towards this aim.”

Kathleen Daxon, spokeswoman for Tai O Community Cattle Group, said it was getting harder to monitor how many deer were dying or being hurt in the catchwater.

“We have no way to know how many animals have died in there,” she said. “We are more than just frustrated. [Government officials] did not even do the upgrades they committed to.”

Daxon also expressed concern about the way government officials handle the deer during rescue missions.

“Our videos show how brutally they handle them,” she said. “In one case, they should have just left the animal to die there from the way they were handling it.”

Barking deer, known for their distinctive canine yelp, are a protected species in Hong Kong but, because of their nocturnal feeding habits, environmentalists have found it difficult to estimate their numbers.

In 2015, the AFCD said the government had put railings along the catchwater drain area to prevent animals falling in, but said the access ladders installed at the site were not intended to help the animals escape.

Workers at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden near Tai Po advised the government to put an adequately textured painted surface over the concrete, which would help animals to climb back out if they fell in. The farm has also suggested screwing small foothold blocks on the surface of the catchwater, or installing ramps. Some of the injured deer are being cared for at Kadoorie Farm until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

Paul Crow, a senior conservation officer there, said the deer which were taken to recover at the farm had been through “extreme stress” and most died after developing the muscle condition capture myopathy, which stems from the stress of being caught.

“This is an unfortunate situation that appears to have worsened in recent months and the exact reason for this is unclear,” Crow said. “The issue will not go away so there is an opportunity here to be innovative and develop solutions which can be applied widely in Hong Kong .”

Continue reading Hong Kong’s barking deer still dying in catchwater drain that activists exposed two years ago