Chinese Grass-babbler
Graminicola striatus

© James Kwok

Chinese Grass-babbler is a resident bird in Hong Kong which mainly inhabits densely growth grassland with height between 0.8 and 1.3 meters growing on hillside. Because of their heavy body and weak wings, they often fly near the ground. They mainly feed on insects and other small invertebrates, their breeding period is in the warm season from March to September.

According to the newsletter published by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in 2012, there were about 490 Chinese Grass-babblers living in Hong Kong. They are described as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, that they have a higher risk of extinction in the wild.

Chinese Horseshoe Crab
Tachypleus tridentatus

© Karol Fong

The horseshoe crabs have already existed in 440 million years ago ancient ocean. They are called “living fossil” because their appearance has not undergone significant evolution for billions of years. Horseshoe crab is a common name for family Limulidae. They are not crab, but close relatives of scorpions and spiders. The long-pointed tail is not use for attack, but to turn over the body when flipped accidently.

The average life span of Chinese Horseshoe Crab is 15 to20 years, the cross section of tail in this species looks triangular. Sandy to muddy intertidal zone is a key habitat to this ancient arthropod because their juvenile lives and feeds on algae and organic debris found along the shores; adult takes it as a breeding ground. In addition, Taiwan people give horseshoe crabs a romantic nickname, called “couple fish”. It is because males will hold females tightly in pair on shores during the breeding season. Their conservation status has been evaluated by IUCN Red List of Threatened Species from Data Deficient to Endangered.

Chinese White Dolphin
Sousa chinensis

© Derek Ho

Chinese White Dolphin, also known as Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin, has an average life span about 40 years. Dolphins are mammal. Females usually bear one offspring at a time and baby dolphins follow their mothers to learn survival skills and swimming. Chinese White Dolphins are born in dark grey and gradually change into pink. Adult male dolphins will retain more spots on the body.

Tremendous amount of organic matters and sediments are brought to the western Hong Kong water by Pearl River, the nutrient rich environment supports many small fishes and other marine organisms. As a result, dolphins are attracted to the estuary to hunt. Chinese White Dolphins are active and inquisitive animal. They often perform breaching, a kind of hunting technique, to herd fish school into a specific area for hunting. Breaching also stop itching caused by parasites.

Asian Water Buffalo
Babulis babulus

© Bowie Chan

Asian Water Buffalos are one of the local larger mammals. According to the cattle statistics published by Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in 2013, there were about 120 Asian buffaloes in Hong Kong. The remained buffalos live in lowland wetlands. In summer, they love lying and rolling in the mud to cool body down as their sweat glands not well developed. This action also drives away mosquitoes.

In the past Hong Kong villagers mostly depended on agriculture for their livelihood and buffalo was an excellent helper to farmers. They ploughed up lands to grow rice which reduced the workload of farmers. As farming declined, traditional agriculture shifted toward mechanization. Hence, buffaloes were no longer needed. Today, many farmlands have been abandoned and transformed into freshwater wetlands gradually. Buffaloes like digging holes on abandoned farmland which loose the soil and increase its water holding capacity to against drought. Also, this practice digs insect out from soil and attracts birds to hunt.

Papilio xuthus

© Gary Chan

Hong Kong has a high diversity of butterflies, there are over 239 recorded species. Swallowtail is a rare species locally and it is from family Papilionidae. Most of swallowtail butterflies have a pair of black wings, but this butterfly’s wings mixed with beige colour.

Swallowtail butterflies often visit orchards and Fung Shui woods because those places provide nectars for adults and host plants from family Rutaceae for larva including citrus and Shiny-leaved Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum nitidum). In addition, some swallowtail butterfly larva mimic bird dung to avoid being prey by birds.

Romer’s Tree Frog
Liuixalus romeri

© Shing

Romer’s Tree Frog is an endemic species to Hong Kong. It was first discovered in a cave on Lamma Island in 1952 by herpetologist Mr. John Romer (1920-1982), so the tree frog was named after him.

The body length of this species is about 1.5 to 2.5 cm. Its back is in brown with cross markings helping the animals to merge into environment. The suction cups on its fingers and toes facilitating the tiny frogs to across leaf litters. During the breeding season between March and September, males make courtship calls similar to sound created by crickets’ wing vibration to attract females.

Stream Crab
Cryptopotamon anacoluthon

© Tommy Hui

This stream crab Cryptopotamon anacoluthon is endemic to Hong Kong and has not been found in other areas for the time being. Beside C. anacoluthon, there are currently three more freshwater crab species in Hong Kong, namely, Nanhaipotamon hongkongense, Nanhaipotamon aculatum and Somanniathelphusa zanklon. Among the four mentioned stream crabs, C. anacoluthon distributes the widest.

The captioned species occurs in clean fast-moving streams and hides under wet leaf litters in forests. They have a sunken marking looks like a smiling face on the carapace. There are two sharp teeth along the anterolateral border including the exorbital tooth, which can distinguish C. anacoluthon from other local freshwater crabs.

Lantau Star-anise
Illicium angustisepalum

© King

Genus Illicium comes from the Latin word illicere which means allure or entice. The fruits, branches and leaves from this genus produce fragrance. Please note that there is no record of using Lantau Star-anise’ s fruit as seasoning and many fruits from family Illiciaceae in the field are toxic, so DO NOT try to pick and eat any star-anises from wild.

Lantau Star-anise grows up to 3 meters high generally, and only be found in the highlands of Lantau Island, such as Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak. Its flower is in white colour, with 22 to 24 oval petals. This Illisium species is easier to be recognized during flowering from late December to March of the next year. Fruits will not be seen until August.

Pacific Island Silvergrass
Miscanthus floridulus

Pacific Island Silvergrass (also known as the silvergrass) is from family Poaceae. Wheat, rice and maize also belong to the same family. This silvergrass is a tough species which usually grows on plains, hillsides and even on barren lands after hill fire.

Every autumn and winter, thousands of visitors are attracted to admire and take pictures on the golden slivergrass sea in Lantau. Beside the ornamental value, the slivergrass also plays an important ecological role because it creates a habitat many organisms, for example grassland birds’ nest and forage here, and plenty larva from butterfly family Hesperiidae feed on slivergrass. In addition, inflorescence of this species does not have joints, farmers used to dry them to make brooms. Some people even consume its young stem and pith.

Purple Paphiopedilum
Paphiopedilum purpuratum

© Gary Chan

Purple Paphiopedilum, commonly known as Hong Kong Lady’s Slipper Orchid, is a representative native species among Hong Kong and Southern China. It is also called Venus Slipper because of its peculiar flower pattern and special lip-shaped petals. These wild orchids mainly grow in patches on shaded slopes beside streams. The flowering period is from October to February of the next year.

Please note that this species is protected by many laws and conventions, such as Hong Kong Regulations for the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586 of the Act) and the Forestry Regulations (Cap 96 of the Act by the Supplementary Regulations); listed as a Wild Plant under State Protection (Category I) in China; and in the International Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: Appendix I and the IUCN Red List critically endangered species. Therefore, we should do our best to protect precious natural environment on Lantau and let this valuable orchid flourish continuously.

Tai O Stilt Houses

Stilt Houses are the symbol of Tai O Fishing Village and they were built by boat dwellers along the estuary. Those houses connect with each other and fishermen can pass through the blocks easily. The materials used in early construction were curved bamboo slices, palm leaves, corrugated iron roof and broken fish nets. Borneo ironwood from ship building was selected to pile over the water body because it is durable and hard to decay in water. As a result, stilt houses are now two storeys high.

Replicating the concept of fishing vessel, there is a sea facing outdoor platform, its functions are similar to bow for family gathering, meals and preparation work. The back of stilt house, just like stern, is used for fish and clothes drying. In general, there are two flood tides and two ebb tides each day. Fishermen berth their sampans at stilt houses at high tide and carry out maintenance at low tide.

Tung Chung is located in the Northern Lantau, opposite to Tuen Mun, which is one of the military strongholds in the Pearl River’s estuary. During the Qing Dynasty, Tung Chung had been chosen as a naval base in order to regulate adjacent sea areas.

Tung Chung Fort is located near Sheung Ling Pei Village. The fortress is approximately 70 metres long and 80 metres wide. Its wall is made of granite strips. According to the inscription on the top of the main gate, it was built in Daoguang 12 years (1832) and named “Tung Chung Suocheng” in the Qing Dynasty. The main purpose of this military base was to combat and restrict sea smuggling and piracy, and to strengthen the defence of Lantau Island. There are six ancient cannons installed on the north wall of the fort, all engraved with characters. Tung Chung Fort, with nearly 190 years of history, has been listed as a statutory monument in Hong Kong since 1979. It is protected by the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance of Chapter 53 of the Hong Kong Law. It is now an exhibition centre open to general public.

Lantau Island

© Shing

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong with a land mass of 147 square kilometres. About seventy percent of the land is dedicated as Country Parks and Special Areas. Our largest Country Parks in area, South Lantau Country Park, is also located in Lantau. Eight locations with high ecological values are listed as “Site of Special Scientific Interest”, including Sunset Peak, Man Cheung Po, Lantau Peak and Tai Ho Stream. Nevertheless, there are many rare fauna and flora see Lantau as their home, such as the endemic Romer’s Tree Frogs (Liuixalus romeri) and Lantau Star-anise (Illicium angustisepalum), critical endangered orchid Purple Paphiopedilum (Paphiopedilum purpuratum), and so on.

Also, the long and rich history and culture of Lantau Island cannot be overlooked. The earliest human activities on the Island can be traced back to Early Stone Age. According to the Office of Antiquities and Monuments, there are fifty sites contain archaeological research value, and among six of them are listed as statutory monuments, including Tung Chung Fort, Stone Circle at Fan Lau and Tai O Yeung Hau Temple.