Hong Kong has a lot of surprising fauna once you escape the confines of the city’s concrete jungle. This page is only for those critters, creepy-crawlies and bugs that I’ve personally encountered and photographed myself (unless otherwise stated/credited), so it’s not a definitive list by any means!
Please see the links at the very end for more information on Hong Kong’s diverse wildlife, plus my page on Hong Kong flora (wild flowers, plants/shrubs, ‘jungly stuff’ and trees, etc.). If you can help identify any of the unknown species on this page, or spot an error, do let me know. All personal photographs are copyrighted. Thank you!
Below is one of several macaque monkeys that I encountered between Lion Rock and Amah Rock in Kowloon. Most likely a Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta). That was my first trek off Lantau (about time!), so it was nice to be rewarded with not just a single monkey sighting, but several, complete with a couple of young ones. My first time, too! Well, in Hong Kong at least, and ever since I started hiking and trail walking, that is.
The monkeys weren’t a bother (and to keep them that way, feeding is not advised), but remained up in the trees the whole time, where they swung from branch to branch to get to wherever they were heading. There is apparently quite a population of macaques in the vicinity, so sightings are fairly common, but there are none on Lantau as far as I’m aware, hence why I had never encountered any before on previous treks.
Southern Yellow Cattle (Zebu)
Southern Yellow Cattle (Bos taurus indicus), also known as Zebu or Humped Cattle, can be seen wandering about in various parts of Hong Kong (same goes for water buffalo, but to a lesser extent). Descended from previously domesticated cattle that were abandoned as farms closed down, many now live a feral or semi-feral existence, roaming the countryside, villages and roads in small herds. South Lantau is popular with feral Southern Yellow Cattle, for example, whilst semi-feral ones reside at Ngong Ping Village, where they are regularly fed.
Red Muntjac (Barking Deer)
The Red or Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) is commonly known as a barking deer (as are other muntjac species) due to the terrifying sound it emits despite its cute and diminutive appearance. I have yet to actually see one, as they are apparently quite shy, but I certainly heard one in a valley whilst hiking towards Sunny Bay, and I kid you not about the sound they make!
The valley acoustics amplified the deer’s single but repetitive blood-curdling bark (more like a shriek?), which literally had me petrified atop a large rock (for defence purposes, of course, lol), hiking pole drawn and at the ready to fend off this frightening man-eating creature lurking in the woods below. Then to later discover it was just a cute little Bambi deer. Lmao!
I have since heard a barking deer on a few other occasions, but I now know not to fear its piercing call. Still very startling, though, and scary as hell for first-timers! For your reference, here’s a link to what one sounds like. Now imagine that amplified whilst you’re out doing a solo hike. 😮
Indochinese Forest Rat
Normally, you would associate rats with human settlements, dark alleyways and dank sewers, but I found this recently deceased critter pretty much smack in the middle of a sunny hillside trail (I moved the carcass to the side of the path with a big stick, eww). I guess you get rats of all kinds everywhere! I don’t know how this one met its fate, but in any case, it wasn’t there (close to the A Po Long intersection) the day before, and I suppose that was dinner sorted for one lucky beastie or snake that same evening…
I have since seen another dead rat like this one – most likely an Indochinese Forest Rat (Rattus andamanensis), otherwise known as a Sikkim Rat – also near A Po Long, but this time an extremely fresh kill with its still-bloody insides ripped out, probably by a crow (there were a couple nearby). Very gross discovery, so I will spare you the photos! I have also noticed a lot of scurrying in the undergrowth since spring, which I believe are rats, especially after I finally managed to observe several scampering about in the bushes on different Lantau trails.
Reptiles & Amphibians
I found this little Garnot’s Gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii) behind the glass of the map board at A Po Long intersection, which allowed me take some pretty neat photos of its belly scales and toe pads while it scampered about on its quest to conquer Lo Fu Tau (Run! It’s Godzilla! Lol). You can also see the serrated teeth running down the length of its tail, which means this is its original tail, not a regenerated one. Garnot’s Gecko is somewhat unique in that it’s unisexual and reproduces by parthenogenesis, whereby unfertilised eggs develop directly into embryos. Fancy that!
You see quite a few of these cute medium-sized lizards whilst out hiking and walking about. They have amazingly long tails and are often found happily basking in the warm sun. Not sure why they’re named Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor), though, as I have yet to see one change or transform in any way, lol. Correction: I have since learnt that they apparently *can* change colour, albeit only subtly, so nothing drastic like a chameleon. Guess that explains both the name and why I’ve not really noticed anything!
The Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus helleri) is a relatively small diurnal snake that likes to enjoy the sun on trail paths. It’s one of Hong Kong’s few venomous snakes active during the day, so is the one you’re most likely to encounter of all the ‘scary’ ones, even though it looks rather cute. For a snake, that is, lol.
As of this update, I have seen several live snakes in the last few months, and sure enough, two were a Red-necked Keelback sunning themselves on the path ahead. One on the way to Sunny Bay, and the other on the way to Tung Chung (before the intersection at A Po Long). Sensing my approach, both slithered into the undergrowth before I could take a photo, which I suppose is a good thing.
Although venomous, the bite of the Red-necked Keelback is only bad if it gets you with its rear fangs, which apparently doesn’t happen too often, so it’s not such a dangerous snake to encounter, thankfully.
Copperhead Rat Snake
I mentioned that I’ve now seen several live snakes whilst out and about, and two were Red-necked Keelbacks. Well, two others, I believe, were rat snakes, and at least one of these was a Copperhead Rat Snake (Coelognathus radiatus), which I was surprised to come across in a residential parking lot on Lantau during a late-night walk one evening! Read more here.
Copperhead Rat Snakes are non-venomous but nevertheless nasty, as they are swift, aggressive attackers and biters when cornered or handled. They have a tendency to raise their heads up by several inches and inflate their necks in order to appear bigger and more threatening, sort of like a cobra – and believe me, it works, as I discovered for myself!
The snake I encountered really didn’t like having its photo taken, especially (not surprisingly) with the flash, so I got to see it in full puffed-up angry mode. It even lunged at me once, but I was standing far enough back, so wasn’t at risk of being bitten. Still quite an adrenaline-pumping moment and encounter overall, though, I must say!
The other rat snake I encountered was equally long and dark, but with thin pale bands running down its length. It also had its head raised up a few inches, but no puffy neck. It was on an embankment to the side of the trail on the way towards DB’s Lo Fu Tau, but disappeared into the grass before I could snap its pic. My guess is that it was a Common or Oriental Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa), although someone suggested it could have been a King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), and after comparing photos, they might be right. Eek! 😮
Taiwan Kukri Snake
Finally, a live snake in its natural habitat that I was able to capture by phone camera, woo-hoo! This medium-sized fella is a Taiwan Kukri Snake (Oligodon formosanus), a 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!
Greater Green Snake
Here’s what I believe to be a baby Greater Green Snake (Cyclophiops major), which I spotted on the dirt trail to A Po Long in very early spring. The big shiny eyes and open mouth may give the illusion of life, but unfortunately this little fella was already very dead when I found it, having died and already started to dry up in the sun. Poor thing. 😥
Greater Green Snakes are completely harmless and are usually a vibrant green colour as adults (or maybe at any age, provided they’re alive and not parched…), and are often confused for the similarly bright green but venomous Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris), even though the two look nothing alike in every other respect. The Greater Green Snake actually looks (and is) cute and friendly, whereas any viper tends to look badass, in my opinion!
The partial flattened remains of a snake found at Ngau Kwu Long on the way to Pak Mong and Tung Chung. Ewww. Obviously, it’s impossible to identify the species with any certainty given the state it’s in, so I won’t even try!
Asian Common Toad
I came across these two NSFW ‘horny toads’ during a power walk on Lantau, so not a hike. They were doing their, ahem, ‘business’ practically in the middle of the path, and didn’t even flinch upon my approach or when I put my phone right up close (no zoom) for several pics!
Fearing they might get trampled under foot or run over by a bike, etc., as a result of their lack of responsiveness, I picked the pair up with two sturdy branches and moved them over to the much safer, greener side of the divide. My good deed that day!
Anyway, it turns out they’re Asian Common Toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), so nothing too out of the ordinary, other than the fact I was able to get so close to snap this pretty awesome ‘intimate’ shot of them in the act, warts (literally) and all, lol. Good thing I avoided direct contact, by the way, as their skin secretions are apparently poisonous.
Mr Wiggles (Snake Worm)
This distinctive looking wormy thing was pretty long, tubular and legless, so I was very tempted to file it under “Reptiles” as an honorary snake of sorts, lol. Since a centipede (the next entry) is not technically an insect, however, I was forced to create a “Creepy-crawlies” section, and so the legless Mr Wiggles can join the very leggy Giant Centipede in this special and very official sounding category. 😉
Not your garden variety earthworm (literally), and not at all like the ones you typically find (often dead and dried up) on trail paths, Mr Wiggles defies identification, hence the name I chose to bestow upon ‘him’, even though earthworms are hermaphrodites, but I digress! He was spotted on the trail to Mui Wo, soon after DB’s Lo Fu Tau. I have since been informed that Mr Wiggles is most likely a type of snake worm (Amynthas sp.).
Amazingly, this is the first Giant Centipede or Chinese Red Head (Scolopendra subspinipes) I’ve ever seen on a hike/walk, or indeed anywhere in Hong Kong! It was crossing the path as I was heading up to Lo Fu Tau in DB and you couldn’t really miss it due to its sharp red colouring. I would say that it was a good six inches long, too, and ‘fat’.
Although this demon centipede looks like it crawled up from the fires of hell and can pack a nasty venomous bite (check out those crazy pincers to the side of its head!), I wasn’t too spooked, as it was just casually ambling along like me, lol, and it’s not like it can jump or fly (thankfully!).
Giant Brown Paper Wasp
This monstrous wasp that I came across at Pak Mong is a Giant Brown Paper Wasp (Polistes gigas). I placed a 10 cent coin and my earbuds next to it for scale, which kinda grossed me out to do, blech. Thankfully the wasp was well and truly dead, otherwise you wouldn’t dare catch me anywhere near that thing. I mean, look at the size of it! Must be at least two inches long!! And did you see its mandibles? 😮
Insects always look bigger when they’re buzzing around, so that beast must have looked like a small bird when it was alive and in flight! I truly shudder at the thought. *shudder* (For extra effect, lol.) Apparently it’s not an overly aggressive species, but more defensive. Good to know, I guess?!
Greater Banded Hornet
This isn’t my photo, as although I see quite a few of these hornets flying around when out hiking, they never seem to land on anything! Since that also means not landing on me, I’m good with that, lol, but no personal pic, unfortunately.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure this is the mid-sized species of hornet that I so often see: the Greater Banded Hornet (Vespa tropica). Looks bigger than it is due to the photographer’s excellent close-up shot. I’d say they’re normally only about an inch long, so half the size of the above wasp (in all proportions).
As an aside, I used to be terrified of bees and hornets/wasps of all sizes, but I’ve since come to respect and value bees (save the bees!), and to ignore these guys here if they also leave me alone, which they do. I’d still run screaming from the super big fella above (if alive), however, as some things just can’t be helped or changed!
Black Shield Wasp
Oddly enough, I rarely see this hornet species (Vespa bicolor) flying around when I’m out and about hiking or walking (at least not on Lantau), even though it’s apparently known as the Common Wasp here in Hong Kong, because it’s, um, supposedly common, lol. I prefer the alternative name Black Shield Wasp, as it does in fact sport a small black shield behind its head, which is in sharp contrast to the bright yellow of the rest of its body.
This guy was found on a flowering plant at the very top of Lo Fu Tau in DB. Surprisingly, despite the wind, it remained put the whole time I was up there and even let me get fairly close for numerous photos (of course, I also used zoom!). Pity I only have a phone camera. Anyway, I’m not sure if it was ill, since I found it odd how it barely moved, but this is my first major close-up of a *living* wasp/hornet – and I didn’t freak out!
Western (European) Honey Bee
I have seen quite a few Western Honey Bees (Apis mellifera), also known as European Honey Bees, gathering pollen from various flowering shrubs and trees since spring. These busy little bees were all photographed in the vicinity of DB’s Lo Fu Tau, in particular up by the reservoir, where there are numerous roadside azalea shrubs, etc.
Spotted Black Cicada
Tropical cicadas are pretty chunky critters, so when this Spotted Black Cicada (Gaeana maculata) fell or launched itself out of the vegetation behind me and landed upside down on the dirt path, the small thud that it made upon impact was enough to make me turn around and do a double take. I kid you not, and I don’t even have the best hearing!
Anyway, I helped it back onto its feet with a small twig, but it got freaked out by me taking its photo up close, so flipped upside down again before righting itself and crawling off into the undergrowth. Not sure what was up with that! Perhaps it was unwell. In any case, that’s why it looks a little dusty near its head, lol.
I was really excited to happen upon this cute little critter at a gravesite near Pak Mong, as it’s most unusual looking and is also featured on the cover of an old local government publication about Hong Kong insects, so I recognised it immediately.
Known as a Lanternfly or Lantern Bug (Pyrops candelaria), this unicorn of the insect world (as I read elsewhere, lol) is a planthopper and close relative of the cicada. Despite its name, it does not emit light, nor does it particularly look like a lantern (go figure). Rather, it resembles a mottled tropical leaf, complete with a long ‘stalk’ (proboscis) for accessing tree sap. Very cute! 🙂
I’ve seen a few of these shiny black crickets (Gryllus sp.) on the trail since spring, but not in fall or winter. The long barb at back is surprisingly not a stinger, but apparently an ovipositor (tube for depositing eggs), which means this cricket is female. Strangely, all the ones I’ve seen to date have thus been female and none tried to get away when approached, unlike most other jumping and/or flying insects. Curious critters!
No idea what this is, other than it’s some type of shield (or stink) beetle. It was hanging out on the small bridge you need to cross as part of the start to the Tung O Ancient Trail in Tung Chung. Mr Beetle was pretty chill, letting me snap his pic up close. I like the mottled pattern across his back. In a way, it sort of looks like Hong Kong’s city lights at night! You might need to squint and use your imagination, lol.
I have no idea what this small flying insect is, but I like its blue-black metallic sheen and googly eyes, lol. I was actually trying to take a photo of the plant it was on for my flora page, but since it didn’t move, I thought I’d take its photo as well. Surprised how well my phone camera was able to capture it, in fact! Fly Guy was spotted on the way to Mui Wo. I’ve since also seen one by the DB reservoir.
Butterflies & Moths
Moths are a lot less jittery and flighty than butterflies, so are much easier and clearer to photograph. Even so, I finally managed to take some reasonable butterfly pics. Hopefully I’ll be able to add more in due course as I become more adept at sneaking up on them!
I spotted this big beautiful swallowtail butterfly hovering around a large Lantana bush on Lantau. Known as a Paris Peacock (Papilio paris), it was very hard to photograph, as it wouldn’t stop moving from flower to flower, nor would it stop fluttering its wings when feeding! I took loads of photos and even a short video for the purpose of screen grabs, and below are some of the best pics, which isn’t saying much, lol. Oh well, at least I tried!
The curiously named Common Mormon (Papilio polytes) is another type of large swallowtail butterfly and one that is very common to Hong Kong. All swallowtails, regardless of species, are quite the constant flutterers it would seem, as this one (like many others I have spotted) never once remained still, making it impossible to take a decent photograph with my phone camera. This was sadly the best pic of the lot, which is even worse than my Paris Peacock photos! Sighted at Lantau’s Trappist Monastery.
The Large Faun (Faunis eumeus), despite its name, is an average-sized brush-footed butterfly that is commonly found in the undergrowth and likes to feed off decaying plant matter rather than flowers, which probably explains its colouring and why I found it sitting atop some dead leaves in a shady patch on Lantau. Unlike hyperactive swallowtails, this fella stayed put and kept still the whole time and even allowed me to get fairly close, which made for a nice change. If only more butterflies would co-operate!
The Illuminated Magpie (or very mystical sounding Abraxas illuminata) is a moth of small to medium size, with a rather unusual and unattractive colour scheme/pattern. The rusty, mouldy look on white is apparently an attempt to camouflage itself as undesirable bird poop, lol, although it would work just as well against some local building exteriors. This moth was spotted on one of the lower DB trails leading up to Lo Fu Tau. When I saw it, my first thought wasn’t necessarily ewww, bird poop, but rather what an ugly moth!
Before living its life as camouflaged bird poop, the Illuminated Magpie is apparently one of these little fellas below, which I found happily resting on a twig at base level on another day. The twig had some ugly webby stuff tacked to the end of it that I didn’t want in my photo, so I tried removing it with a small stick, but the webby stuff proved much stickier than expected. As a result, when it finally broke free, I managed to accidentally catapult the poor caterpillar from its perch! Oops, haha.
Like Spider-Man, however, the quick and resourceful caterpillar rapidly shot out some sticky insta-web (albeit from its mouth) to catch its fall, which is how I managed to photograph this little guy spinning and dangling in mid-air, lol. After a few pics, I used a stick to put him back on a leaf near one of his buddies, so it all ended well, plus I got this cool photo out of the whole ‘sticky’ ordeal! Check out the web at the top of the pic.
The Firefly Moth (Pidorus glaucopis), as it’s known in Japan at least, is an interesting character. About one inch in length, the moth is distinguished by its bright red head, big feathery antennae and black cloaked body, which is marked with a single band of white across its forewings (folded in the photo below). If it were a Star Wars character, this moth would be Darth Maul, lol. Spotted on Lo Fu Tau in DB.
This pretty little moth is a type of Tiger Moth (Spilosoma sp.). The fuzzy pink part at top was even too fuzzy for my phone camera, lol, but at least you can clearly make out its white-veined taupe-coloured wings, marked by four pairs of tiny black specks. Very delicate and muted, unlike Darth Maul above, although similar in size. Also spotted on Lo Fu Tau in DB (same day, in fact – must be the start of moth season!).
Tiger Wasp Moth
Is it a bee? Is it a wasp? Some strange hybrid? Turns out it’s none of the above: It’s a moth. Huh? Yep, what we have here is a Tiger Wasp Moth (Amata polymita), also known as a Tiger-striped Clearwing Moth. I spotted it feeding on some Praxelis on Lantau and didn’t know what to make of it at the time, since it does look rather like a bee/wasp, yet not quite. Most unique, and since it’s only a moth mimicking a wasp, presumably harmless.
The Very Funky Caterpillar
This little barbed caterpillar has the funkiest colour scheme I’ve yet to see! Love the hot pink and orange on black, plus the combination of spots, stripes and barbs. I could totally see a dress, handbag or shoes featuring this design, lol. This fashionable little miss was found on the High Junk Peak Country Trail in Clear Water Bay, so a long way from my usual haunts. Barely an inch long, it’s a wonder I even spotted it on the path, but I did, so I relocated it elsewhere. My third caterpillar/butterfly ‘rescue’ that day! 😀
A few weeks after the above sighting, I found a much larger and hungrier caterpillar of the same species near Lo Fu Tau in DB, pictured below at right. I’m super curious as to what type of butterfly (or moth) this turns into. If anyone knows, do let me know!
For further information, see also:
- SCMP: Have you seen all of Hong Kong’s wild animals? (video clip)
- AFCD: Hong Kong Species (flora and fauna)
- AFCD: Hong Kong Biodiversity Database (search function)
- Macau Biodiversity Database (flora and fauna, similar to HK)
- Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (flora and fauna)
- Hong Kong Wetland Park (flora and fauna)
- Wikipedia: List of Mammals of Hong Kong
- Wikipedia: List of Birds of Hong Kong
- HKU: Reptiles of Hong Kong (snakes, lizards and turtles)
- AFCD: Venomous Land Snakes in Hong Kong
- Coconuts: Illustrated Guide to Hong Kong’s Venomous Snakes
- Southside: The Most Common Snakes in Hong Kong
- SCMP: Snake species creeping up in Hong Kong
- KFBG: What to do if you encounter a wild snake?
- St John (Australia) First Aid Fact Sheet: Snake Bite
- Time Out: Creepy critters: 10 spiders in Hong Kong to look out for
- Vespa-Bicolor.net: Aculeates of Asia (wasps and bees)
- LCSD: Butterflies in Hong Kong’s Urban Parks
- Shell & Green Power: Hong Kong Butterfly Net