HK's Top 10: Wildest protected animals

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1 Bats
Hong Kong’s bats – of which there are 21 species – are commonly found in abandoned old village houses or near damp air conditioners in urban areas. Think twice before pulling out the wooden stake on these nocturnal creatures, as each and every one of these species is protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance, with a $100,000 maximum fine and one year behind bars for any violations. 

Chinese porcupines
Commonly found with their families in caves and crevices across the city, Chinese porcupines are also protected under law. These critters have long, sharp yellow-and-black striped quills, which they’ve been known to hurl out at lightning speed when threatened. The quills are not poisonous but can leave a pretty nasty – and even fatally septic – wound. Don’t piss off the porcupine.

3 Pallas’ squirrels
Believed to be the bastard lovechildren of stray beasts and escaped zoo animals, no-one really knows where the Pallas’ squirrels actually come from. But, they’re the only squirrel species we’ve got. During bauhinia blooming season, you can usually find their bushy yellow tails poking out of high tree branches as they kick back and stuff their yellow-brown bellies with nuts. Probably.

4 Chinese pangolins
US pilots during the Vietnam War once described the critter as ‘a foot-long prehistoric beast covered in armour plating’. Sadly, Hong Kong’s pangos fetch a high price on the Mainland for their purported medicinal properties, tasty meat and useful skin. Demand has been high recently, spurring much illegal hunting here. So, hunters: just don’t. 

5 Barking deer
That barking you hear at night might not be those stray mutts in the back alley: it may be a certain species-confused deer. Yep, the barking deer gets its name from the way it barks like a dog at night. The creature likes to mark its territory with secretions from beneath its eyes and usually hangs around on its own until breeding season arrives. Then it goes barking mad.

6 Chinese white dolphins
By ‘white,’ we actually mean pink. With numbers dropping from 159 in 2003 to only 61 last year, Hong Kong’s iconic pink dolphins have been severely threatened by pollution. In April, marine watchers recorded a dolphin mother struggling to revive her dead calf above the water, with other pink dolphins taking turns to help. Sadly it’s an all-too-common occurrence here, with mum dolphins ingesting polluted water and passing the toxins on to their offspring through their milk. 

7 Romer’s tree frogs
Roughly the size of an eraser stub, Romer’s Tree Frogs are the smallest amphibians ever recorded in Hong Kong. Discovered in a cave on Lamma Island in 1952 by amateur haematologist JD Romer, the species are endemic to Hong Kong, meaning they exist nowhere else. Inspired by this, The Romer String Quartet are named after these little natives.

8 Eurasian wild pigs
These omnivorous eaters forage loudly into the night and plunder  farmers of their crops, who in turn have installed electric fences. Turns out, though, that the pigs play an important part of the life cycle, as their food-rooting turns over soil and actually helps plants to grow. 

9 King cobras
The world’s longest poisonous snake with a venom that attacks the nervous system causing paralysis and death by asphyxiation, king cobras just don’t give a damn. In 2001, an entire kindergarten in Discovery Bay evacuated at the mere sight of a large snake thought to have been a king cobra. A short snout and expandable hood are what distinguish this deadly snake from friendlier look-a-likes. 

10 Black-faced spoonbills
These large wading birds carry a strong dependence on coastal habitats and specific breeding locations to exist, which have all decreased as a result of urban development. For the time being, though, the kinky little birds like to head out of our city and mate like wild animals over in the human-restricted  Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea, which has become one of the last remaining breeding grounds for our nearly extinct species. Ying Lo

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