Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden - Wildlife updates & sightings
by Gary Ades, Roger Kendrick, Paul Crow, Amanda Haig, Louis Cheung, Preston Chow and Rupert Griffiths
Wildlife recordings, surveys and rehabilitation at Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG) have produced a number of interesting and unusual records since December. In this report, KFBG Fauna staff provide some of the highlights of their findings.
General wildlife sightings are posted on the KFBG Wildlife Sightings Board on a fortnightly basis, with records provided by staff and visitors. Many records are generated by the Security team on night shifts.
(1) The following sightings records were posted between August and November, 2003:
5 August, 5.10pm; Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum), near tropical plants house - adult female with 3 juveniles begging for food.
23 August, (Night Safari) 7.30pm; Japanese Pipistrelle Bats observed hunting insects, and picked up at 46KHz on bat detectors, over the Butterfly Garden; 8.30pm - still a few fireflies along the stream at the Fern Walk
27 August, p.m.; Many-banded Krait hatchling found outside the Admin. Office
29 August; a male Macaque seen outside the Conservation Office.
1 September; at least 5 Birdwing butterflies (Troides helenus and T. aeacus) flying around the Butterfly Garden, 4 pm
3 September - Small Indian Civet at Signpost Corner
6 September - Bamboo Snake at Native Tree Nursery
8 September - Cobra near Helicopter Pad
10 September - Atlas Moth (mating pair) at Parrot Sanctuary
12 September - Muntjac (Barking deer) heard, below Kwun Yum Shan and near Post Office Pillars
12 September - Porcupine seen on road above Post Office Pillars
12 September - Wild boar seen on road above Post Office Pillars
13 September - Barking deer above Post Office Pillars
15 September - Porcupine at Apiary
24 September – Burmese Python near T S Woo Pavilion
29 September - Woodcock below Twin Pavilion
5 October - Black-naped Oriole, (two individuals) at Kwun Yum Shan summit.
24 October - Big-headed Terrapin, Magnolia Reservoir
25 October - 2 Ferret-badgers playing near Orchid Haven; 2 Porcupine at Raptor Sanctuary, unidentified species of Nightjar hawking for insects at dusk, summit of Kwun Yum Shan; Japanese Pipistrelle Bats above Upper Canteen; Himalayan Leaf-nosed Bats (Hipposideros armiger) hunting airborne invertebrates below TS Woo Pavilion; fireflies evident after dusk at the top of Kwun Yum Shan and at Great Falls.
21 November (evening / night) - Wild boar, Leopard Cat and Small Indian Civet - upper Farm tangerine terraces; HK cascade frog - stream pool near Orchid Haven; 3 Big-headed Terrapins, Lesser Spiny frog, 3 Anderson Stream Snakes - stream above Magnolia Reservoir; HK Newt - stream near Fern Walk.
22 November (Night Safari) - Porcupine (2 adult, 2 sub-adult) on road beneath summit of Kwun Yum Shan; Porcupine (one adult) above Boulder Lodge; Fire-fly larvae (=glow-worms!) at Magnolia Reservoir, by stream at Orchid Haven, Fern Walk and below Butterfly Garden.
The following notable sighting records from Kwun Yum Shan (KYS) were posted between December 2003 and May 2004:
15 December - Daurian redstart
19 December - Red-tailed robin
19 December - Chestnut bellied rock thrush
13 January - White’s thrush
16 January - Woodcock, rufous turtle dove, big-headed terrapin, and a Rhesus macaque
17 January - Hong Kong cascade frog, Malayan porcupine, a barking deer calling
21 January - Imperial Eagle over KYS
3 February - Small Indian civet
7 February - Two Malayan porcupines
10 February - Wild boar
12 February - Three stray dogs were seen eating a barking deer they had just killed
20 February - Two barking deer
4 March - A young barking deer
6 March - Small Indian civet
16 March - Two wild boar
24 March - Two barking deer
27 March - Malayan porcupine killed by stray dogs
31 March - Three Malayan porcupines
7April - Red mountain racer
10 April - Wild boar
14 April - Small Asian mongoose
19 April - Three Malayan porcupines
20 April - A Hong Kong cascade frog calling
21 April - Leopard cat
23 April - Big-headed terrapin
25 April - Greater green snake
27 April - Bamboo Pit Viper
27 April - Two Styan’s squirrels
(2) Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden - Fauna Department Project News:
The monthly moth survey has again increased the number of moths recorded at KFBG, to at least 1,171 species as of April 2004. Fourteen species have been recorded as new to KFBG in two nights light-trapping (28 February and 27 March) out of the 292 species recorded. The Yponomeutidae species reported as new to Hong Kong in Porcupine! 30 has been tentatively identified as Teinoptila sp. near brunnescens. One further species of note from 25 October 2003 has been identified as Tirathaba ruptilinea (Pyralidae, Galleriinae), also new to Hong Kong.
The second edition of KFBG's Hong Kong Fauna - A Checklist of Selected Taxa was completed in April. Copies are to be privately distributed, primarily to environmental non-governmental organisations and relevant government departments. The Checklist combines lists available from several sources into one reference and contains recent unpublished records. The list includes all the vertebrates recorded in Hong Kong, odonates, Lepidoptera (including moths), several beetle families and phasmids; just over 3,500 species in total. Further groups are to be added in future editions. Comments on this latest edition are welcome.
The endemic Romer's Tree Frog population on the KFBG hillside is still being monitored monthly. This year, courtship calls were first heard in March. In April and May a total of 20 adults were recorded in the field, but no tadpoles and eggs have been found yet. This is quite late compared to May 2003, when more than 100 eggs and tadpoles were found during the same night.
KFBG currently has a total of 21 artificial bat roosts of 4 different designs installed on site. The boxes are all between 1-2 yrs old and as yet have not attracted a significant level of occupancy however that is not to say they are not utilized. Our most successful design to date was our "first draft" which was our simplest design based upon simple principles laid out by Bat Conservation International and reference design laid out in "The Bat House Builder's Handbook" 1993 Merlin Tuttle and Donna Hensley.
The first design was recorded as housing up to 5 head of Japanese pipistrelle (Pipistrellus abramus) in a box at any one time and up to 11 bats at one time between all four roosts of that design. Unfortunately this box design was not resilient enough to last in the Hong Kong, climate being constructed only of plywood, and later upgrades have as yet failed to attract the same response from our local bats.
Other designs in use include a "Bat Condo" designed to offer housing to larger numbers of bats and prefabricated "Woodcrete" boxes designed to be built into permanent brick or concrete structures.
In many temperate countries artificial roost structures for bats are well researched and are recognized as a valid conservation measure for some species. By putting different designs through trial, we hope to find those designs most appropriate for use in Hong Kong that may have value in mitigating loss of existing bat roost sites. Plans exist in the future to test larger scale roost designs.
With the arrival of the new financial and working year in April of 2004 KFBG has formalized one of the ongoing monitoring projects into a more structured programme. The population of Big-headed Terrapins resident inside the boundaries of KFBG is the subject of the study. Initially basic occurrence data is being collected during routine stream searches, this has so far recorded 39 individual turtles, which have been marked, measured and released (Figs. 1 and 2). Turtles have ranged from 8.5 g hatchlings to adults just under 1 kg in weight. As an extension to this project, collaboration with the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (USA) has been initiated and a radio telemetry project that hopes to uncover a little more of the ecology of this threatened species is underway. Currently only four animals are being regularly tracked but we hope to expand the project when manpower allows. Each turtle being tracked is also carrying an "ibutton" temperature logger that will provide a snap shot of the thermal environment the animals are selecting.
The results of a Pilot biodiversity study of the eastern Frontier Closed Area and North East New Territories undertaken during 2003 have been published. The executive summary is reproduced here:
"A 7-day preliminary biodiversity survey was conducted between June and December 2003 at Lin Ma Hang and San Kwai Tin in the Frontier Closed Area (FCA), and Kuk Po, So Lo Pun and Yung Shue Au in North East New Territories (NENT) The aim of this survey was to provide up-to-date ecological background information relevant to an evaluation of ecological importance of potential ecological hotspots in the study area. Included in the study were surveys of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, freshwater fish and macro-invertebrates.
In the FCA botanical hotspots included the feng shui woods and secondary forest where forest-dependent birds including the Orange-headed Thrush were recorded. Gymnosphaera metteniana, a new fern species to Hong Kong, was recorded in the secondary forest. The present survey also reinforces earlier findings of high ecological value of lowland streams for freshwater fish, and lowland habitats for bats. A dragonfly, Idionyx victor, of "Local Concern", was also recorded. The endemic Anderson's Stream Snake of "Potential Global Concern", and Mountain Wolf Snake and Diamond-backed Water Snake both of "Local Concern" were recorded. Three Hong Kong endemic moths were also recorded during a light trap exercise. A dragonfly, Gynacantha subinterrupta, of "Local Concern" was recorded.
In the NENT a total of nine plant species of conservation concern were recorded. The Yellow-bellied Weasel and Crab-eating Mongoose of "Local Concern" were recorded by infra-red camera exercises. The highest occurrence of mammals occurred at Yung Shue Au. In addition, the presence of the goby Stiphodon sp., which is of "Global Concern", is the first record of this fish species in the New Territories.
Designating Country Park and Site of Special Scientific Interest status to lowland habitats of high ecological value is the most effective way to conserve these habitats. Priority for conservation should be given to the secondary forest and lowland streams at Lin Ma Hang, secondary forest and hillstream at San Kwai Tin, San Uk Ha feng shui wood at Kuk Po, secondary forest, the lowland stream/marsh, and seagrass at So Lo Pun, and the lowland stream at Yung Shue Au. Green corridors between Wutongshan National Forest Park in Shenzhen and Robin's Nest in Hong Kong are recommended with cross-border cooperation, to enhance movement and dispersal of wildlife between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen mountain ranges."
(3) Wild Animal Rescue Centre (WARC) - update
The last few months saw a fair amount of activity at WARC, with animals admitted for rehabilitation and veterinary treatment for a variety of conditions, we also received a number of young animals. The release of a Brown Fish Owl fitted with a radio transmitter provided a useful diary of habitat use and survival prior to the transmitter being recovered from a shed feather in April. Notable animals received during this period include a Saker Falcon and a Pied Avocet.
Below is a list of some of the animals received over the last few months that have been successfully rehabilitated and subsequently released.
(4) Feature: Feral Dogs & Native Wildlife - a cause for concern
During a Night Safari activity at KFBG on 27 March, a dramatic incident occurred which highlights the impact feral dogs have on the native wildlife. The KFBG security patrol radioed the Safari team to say they had seen a porcupine family (two adults and one juvenile) at approximately 300 m ASL. Before the activity group reached the location, dogs were heard barking excitedly, with the sound coming from close to the reported sightings. The Night Safari team reached the location of the Porcupine sighting, to be met by the security guards on duty and were informed that a juvenile porcupine had been killed by feral dogs. The body had not been removed, so the Night Safari participants were able to see first hand the gruesome result of the feral dog attack as they walked to the lower part of the Farm (Fig. 3). Once at Misha's Bungalow lower down the hill, there followed a lively debate amongst KFBG staff and Night Safari participants as to the possible courses of action that could be taken to deal with feral dogs.
This incident followed the killing of a pregnant muntjac deer on 12th February and a third incident occurred more recently, with an adult porcupine killed by feral dogs on May 21 (Fig. 4). Staff have also witnessed feral dogs attacking a pangolin on KYS.
Readers are encouraged to provide records of their own experiences concerning feral dog activities and the locations where they occurred.