Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Fauna — General
By J. C. Kershaw, Author of "Butterflies of Hongkong."
HE most striking portions of the Hongkong fauna to a general observer are the insects, the birds, and the reptiles. The mammals have to be carefully sought for and, consequently, are rarely seen by the majority of people.Mammalia.—The Bats, especially the fruit-eating Pteropidæ, are numerous; some of the latter feed to a great extent on banyan berries in the autumn, and make their presence known by constant pattering of the fruit on roads bordered by these trees. A large species of Shrew (Sorex murinus), known in Hongkong as the "Musk-rat," is very common on the island, often entering buildings. It is very like a large edition of the British Shrew-mouse, and is likewise insectivorous, though it is probably a flesh and vegetable feeder to some extent. It has short, soft, dark-grey fur, inclining to blue. A species of Civet (Viverra) is still common on the island, a cat-like animal, but with a pointed face and about twice the size of the common cat. There is also a rather large species of Wild Cat, but it is not common, and is likely to be soon exterminated, though it is fairly numerous on the mainland. A Fox, very similar to the British animal, but rather larger and lighter in colour, is common on the mainland, and occurs on the island. An Otter and a Badger, very like their respective British prototypes, occur on the island and are common on the mainland. A curious Dolphin (Sotalia sinensis), locally known as the "Pink Porpoise," of a white or pale flesh colour, often appears in the estuary of the Canton River and the approaches of Hongkong harbour. The Wild Boar is common in some parts of Kwangtung, and occurred within recent years on the island. A species of Cervulus, one of the small Muritjac Deer, is numerous, as it is in all the better-wooded parts of South China. It has a very ugly, discordant bark. Of Rats and Mice there are several species, the common rat being a serious nuisance. One of the Scaly Ant-eaters, genus Pangolin, occurs in Kwangtung, and very possibly on the island, and may occasionally be seen alive in the markets of Hongkong and Macao. The majority of these mammals are strictly nocturnal, and, in consequence, the Hongkong mammalia, few in species, are also the least conspicuous portion of the fauna of the island.
Reptilia.—The Snakes are quite numerous enough to attract attention, at least during the wet season. One of the burrowing snakes (Typhlina), nearly black and not so big as an ordinary earth-worm and with exceedingly minute eyes, is very common under large stones, beneath which it burrows in the soil. Python reticulata is common, but seldom attains any considerable dimensions. One of the commonest snakes is the little Amphiesma tigrinum, plentiful on paddy-field paths and, in fact, almost everywhere. Of the venomous snakes, the common Cobra is fairly numerous in places; the black-and-white ringed Bungarus fasciatus occurs, and the pretty bright green Pit-viper, Trimeresurus graminens, is rather common. A small and very poisonous Sea-snake, probably a species of Hydrophis, also occurs, but not commonly. Of Lizards there are many species, but the one most in evidence is Calotes versicolor, with more or less of a crest down the back. The same wall-lizard, so common in Singapore houses, occurs in Hongkong, but is not nearly so numerous here. The curious and loud cry of the big, clumsily-built Gecko is sometimes heard. It haunts big trees and rocks and sometimes buildings. The structure of its feet is admirably adapted to running over vertical and smooth surfaces. Fresh-water Tortoises of the genus Terrapene inhabit a few streams and pools in the island. Marine Turtles of the genus Chelone occur commonly at Hongkong; some have been captured weighing over 400 lbs. They lay their eggs in the sand on some of the adjacent islands, especially some of the smaller islets seaward of Lantao.
Amphibia.—Frogs and Toads are very numerous in species, some of the smaller frogs being beautifully coloured. A large edible kind is much sought after by the Chinese. Tree-frogs of the genus Polypedates are very common, and their large, oval, frothy egg-sacs hang on almost every bush overhanging stagnant water during the beginning of the wet season. On a summer's night the chorus of frogs from every marshy piece of ground is almost deafening.
Fishes.—The fresh-water fishes are few and small; several of them are species provided with barbels. Of the sea-fish I can only mention the curious little Goby, which hops across the surface of the tidal mud-flats in swarms, and even climbs on mangrove bushes and rocks and lies basking in the sun for several minutes.
Insecta.—The Orthoptera are exceedingly well represented, and many species of Mantis, Phasmids or Stick-insects, Locusts and Katydids are of large size and beautiful colouring. Termites, or White Ants, are only too well-known in Hongkong, where they do an immense amount of damage every year. Dragonflies are numerous in species and many of them are handsome insects. There are hosts of Sawflies and Parasitic Hymenoptera, and the Bees and Wasps are very numerous, especially the Solitary Wasps. The Ants are everywhere, and some species are a great nuisance at times. The Beetle fauna is rather poor on the whole, though there are many Phytophagous kinds, a few fine Longicorns and Lamellicorns and many species of Carabidæ. Butterflies are noticed in more detail later; the Moths, as usual, are much less conspicuous, though far more numerous; but there are some large and showy day-flying moths, including the huge Attacus atlas, whose larvæ and cocoons may be found in abundance on Stilingia trees, though the perfect insect is not very often observed; Actias luna, a beautiful and large pale-green moth with very long tails on the hind-wings; and several other large Saturniidæ, with a host of Sphinx or Hawk-moths. A moth, Epipyrops anomala, with a curious life-history, whose larva is parasitic on the Candleflies, is common here. The Diptera are in hosts, including Mosquitoes and other blood-sucking flies. Perhaps the most noticeable otherwise are large Syrphids and Asilids, the latter fierce and predaceous flies. The Hemiptera are much in evidence, some large and handsome species occurring; a few kinds are in such abundance as seriously to damage certain trees. The great Water-bug, a species of Belostoma, is very common in stagnant water, but is seldom seen. Sometimes, however, it flies during the night into lighted houses, and always attracts attention by its great size. The Cicadidæ during the wet season force themselves on one's attention, being found even in trees in the city. Of the Candle-flies, or Fulgoridæ, there are two large and handsomely-coloured species, one being very common. Some curious Membracids, Aphides and Scale-insects, and the insects which prey on them, are also very common; in fact, but for the Ladybird and Syrphid larvæ and other enemies which destroy them, Aphides of two or three kinds would soon become a pest in the island.
Spiders, Crustacea, &c.—There is a rich fauna of Spiders, including some very large species. Scorpions occur, but are not very common. The Crabs are well represented. Whole armies of small land-crabs may sometimes be heard rustling the paddy like the wind, as they climb the rice-plants in the evening to eat the grain. The large and peculiar King-crab, a species of Limulus, inhabits the shallow sea round the island, and is sometimes to be seen in the market. Of the Myriapoda, a poisonous Centipede, often over five inches in length, is very common, and many other species are numerous under stones and logs.
Mollusca.—Land-shells, as usual in a granite country, are not numerous in species. Leeches are common in small streams, but do not swarm in wet grass and herbage, as in many tropical places.