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Asia Hong Kong Species Fact File

Water Monitor – Hong Kong Wildlife | 水巨蜥 – 香港野生動物

A gray area in Hong Kong fauna. Once thought to be locally extinct. Now they are here again! Some think they are native. Others think they are imports.

Varanus salvator (Laurenti, 1768)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Varanidae
Genus: Varanus
Species: salvator

Where in HK?
Very rare – reservoirs, rivers, Mai Po marshes

Size: 1.5 – 3.2 m / 4’11 – 10’6″
Distribution: Southern Asia
Habitat: Semi-aquatic
Diet: Carnivore
Behavior: Diurnal
Conservation status: Least Concern

The Asian water monitor or Common water monitor (Varanus salvator) is the largest lizard in Hong Kong and the world’s second-largest lizard (in weight) after the Komodo dragon. Water monitors can grow to anywhere from 1.5 m (4’11”) to 3.21 m (10’6″) as the largest specimen ever recorded.

Outside Hong Kong, it is widely distributed in southern Asia including the Chinese Guangxi and Hainan provinces. The species was first described in 1768. But it’s not until 1961 the species was first officially recorded in Hong Kong (northern New Territories). Since then few sightings have been reported from time to time. But they were mostly believed to be released or escaped from imports. Many think that those are from the pet market. But I think the food market would be the most possible main source.

They are still rare in Hong Kong but I have been spotting more of them in recent years. Whether natives or imports, it is kind of proven that they have already (re)established a small population in Hong Kong and become our permanent residents.

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

這是一個香港野生動物相的灰色地帶。一度被認為於香港已絕種,但牠們又回來了。有說是香港本地物種, 又有說由外地引入。

水巨蜥, 或者一般大眾認識的五爪金龍, 巨蜥,澤巨蜥,圓鼻巨蜥等等。是香港最大的蜥蝪, 以及科莫多龍以外世界上第二大的蜥蝪(體重計)。由已知的標本紀錄所得知, 水巨蜥體長可由1.5米達到3.21米不等。

在香港以外, 廣泛分佈於亞洲南方中國廣西及海南一帶。最早於1768年有紀錄形容這個物種, 但只有在1961年才第一次於香港(新界北)有官方的紀錄。由於只有少量的發現個案, 普遍認為是外地引入時被野放到野外。 現在牠們在香港仍然非常罕有, 但我在近年有更多的發現。無論牠們是本地品種還是外來的品種, 相信已經在香港(重新)發展到一個數量。

Categories
Asia Europe Hong Kong Species Fact File

Eurasian Eagle-owl – Hong Kong Wildlife | 雕鴞 – 香港野生動物

The largest owl inhabits the smallest concrete jungle in Hong Kong. How intriguing!

Birdwatching normally takes place during the day, except for owls. There are 9 species of owls you can possibly spot in Hong Kong. The most common species is the Collared scops owl (Otus lettia) which is a small one usually no bigger than 25 cm. The other 8 species are way harder to find, just like this.

I was so lucky to have found this huge Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo Bubo) in Yuen Long, New Territories. It is locally rare but widely distributed throughout Hong Kong. It can also be found in Central Asia and Russia, all the way to Europe.

It is the World’s largest owl growing to 75 cm (2’6″) tall, with a wingspan of 188 cm (6’2″). Bubo bubo is not just big but lives long too. It can live over 25 years while some other owls have a lifespan of fewer than 4 years.

Bubo bubo (Linnaeus, 1758)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Bubo
Species: bubo

Where in HK?
Rare

Size: 75 cm – wingspan over 1.8 m
Distribution: Europe and Asia
Habitat: Arboreal
Diet: Carnivore
Behavior: Nocturnal
Conservation status: Least Concern

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

觀鳥活動通常都於日間進行, 除了觀看貓頭鷹外。

香港有9種貓頭鷹, 你會有機會看得到。最常見的是領角鴞, 通常都很細小不會大於25厘米。另外8種則比較難看得到。

在這圖中的是雕鴞。我很幸運地在新界元朗看到牠。牠們很罕有但廣泛分佈於香港。也可以在亞洲中部, 俄羅斯到歐洲一帶看得到。牠們可體長75厘米, 展開雙翼後更可達至188厘米。

雕鴞不但體型龐大, 壽命也很長, 牠可以活到超過25年。 而其他貓頭鷹一般只能活少於4年。

Categories
Asia Hong Kong Species Fact File

Bamboo Snake – Hong Kong Wildlife | 青竹蛇 – 香港野生動物

It is responsible for the vast majority of snake bites in Hong Kong.

Cryptelytrops (Trimeresurus) albolabris (Gray, 1842)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Genus: (Cryptelytrops) Trimeresurus
Species: albolabris

Where in HK?
Very common – low hilly areas, grasslands, cultivated fields

Size: 50 – 90 cm / 1’8″ – 2’11”
Distribution: Southern Asia
Habitat: Arboreal
Diet: Carnivore
Behavior: Nocturnal
Conservation status: Least Concern

The Bamboo pit viper or White-lipped pit viper (or occasionally called Green pit viper, Bamboo snake, or Bamboo viper) is the most common venomous snake species in Hong Kong and is responsible for over 90% of the reported snake bites. It can be found in forests, mountains, wetlands, and many different habitats. This species can also be found in Southern China, Indonesia, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam A small to medium-sized snake growing to 50 cm (1’8″), up to 90 cm (2’11”).

This is a nocturnal species. Even in total darkness, they can catch their prey by using the heat-sensing pits below their eyes which most snakes don’t have. That’s why they’re called pit vipers.

Bites are painful and can cause swelling. The venom is a hemotoxin that attacks red blood cells and causes tissue damage. It may not be deadly to most healthy humans (few fatalities recorded though) but is strong enough to kill or paralyze their prey such as frogs, lizards, and small mammals.

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

青竹蛇, 或稱竹葉青, 白唇竹葉青, 赤尾青竹絲, 是香港最常見的毒蛇。遍佈林木, 山嶺, 濕地以及許多不同的棲息地。

這個物種也可以在中國南方, 印尼,  尼泊爾, 尼泊爾, 巴格達, 緬甸, 泰國, 柬埔寨, 老撾, 越南找到。

這種中小型蛇體長可由50厘米至 90厘米, 這是一種夜行性動物, 即使在夜裡牠仍能捕獵, 使用牠們眼底下的熱能探測器官-頰窩(pits: 凹型窩狀) 由於大部分蛇都沒有頰窩, 也因此牠們被稱為 pit vipers(有凹型窩狀頰窩的蝰蛇)。

被咬到傷口會非常痛, 而且會腫脹。毒液對人類不足以致命, 但絕對足夠殺死牠們的獵物, 例如小哺乳類, 蛙類及蜥蝪。

Categories
Asia Hong Kong Species Fact File

Spotted Narrow-mouthed Frog – Hong Kong Wildlife | 花细狹口蛙 – 香港野生動物

Cute little mouth in the 852.

I rarely post local species doesn’t mean I don’t do field trips (or herping) in here. It’s just there’re too many animals around the globe that are piquing my “never-canceled” curiosity. Now, staying at home, it’s never been a better time to re-explore Home Kong.

This Hong Kong resident is a Spotted narrow-mouthed frog or known as Kalophrynus interlineatus in science. 1 of the 5 local species in the narrow-mouthed frog family (Microhylidae).

In Hong Kong they are only found in northern New Territories but not Lantau, Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. I found this one in Fanling. They can also be found in southern China, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. Their habitats are forests, cultivated lands and grasslands.

It has subtle eardrums that can hardly be seen. Being small (4 cm) and looking cute doesn’t mean it’s vulnerable. It does secrete toxic fluid when threatened. Oh, and yes, obviously it can only eat a teeny weeny bit of food — mainly ants!

Kalophrynus interlineatus (Edward Blyth, 1855)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Microhylidae
Genus: Kalophrynus
Species: interlineatus

Where in HK?
northern New Territories

Size: 4 – 6 cm
Distribution: Southern Asia
Habitat: Terrestrial
Diet: Insectivore
Conservation status: Least Concern

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

這可愛的蛙類是花细狹口蛙, 又名條紋狹口蛙, 你只能在香港北面的新界找得到, 但不能在大嶼山, 九龍或香港島。

這一隻花细狹口蛙是在粉嶺找到的, 牠們也曾出沒在中國南部 緬甸 越南及泰國, 牠們一般於森林, 耕地, 以及草原出沒。 牠們主要以蟻類為食, 因為牠們的口太小了。

Categories
Americas Asia

Not All Alligators Are American

“Alligator or crocodile?” is hardly an easy game to play even for reptile lovers. The difference of the shape of snouts is not too obvious. Convergent evolution might be a bit too hard to understand. Most people’s idea is that alligators are the ones in the US and the rest are all crocodiles. Some even think that both are the same animals with different names in American and British English.

American alligator

I guess it’s safe to say that the word alligator sounds American. As a matter of fact, the origin of the name is more from Spanish. Every time when I mentioned the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) my American friends would be shocked to learn the fact that the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is not the only alligator in the world. Indeed, there are two species of alligators in the world.

The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator (揚子鱷), is not only critically endangered but also a very little known species, comparing to its more common American cousin. In Chinese, alligator and crocodile share the same word. Thus, there’s no such trouble telling apart alligators from crocodiles in China.

Chinese alligator

 

Categories
Americas Asia

Jesus Christ Lizard

There are over 10,000 extant species of reptiles. How many have you seen? There are only two lizards known to be able to run on water. This earned the renowned Basilisk of the new world the nickname “Jesus Christ lizard”.

From the old world, there’s this lesser known Sailfin Dragon that evokes even more of my interest. Its Latin name Hydrosaurus says it all. They inhabit rainforests and can run across the river like a jet boat. Firstly described almost 250 years ago but not much has been known so far. I’ve had such a privilege to be able to handle such a beautiful adult Sailfin Dragon. Life is good.