The wildlife of Kam Tin valley is probably the best documented in HK after Pokfulam (on HK island). The reason for this is that the University of HK (situated in Pokfulam, on HK island) use Kadoorie Farm (at the head of Kam Tin valley) as a field station. Some might say that for far too long the academics tended not to range too much further. The academics biggest omission was that they entertained each other with papers, or jealously stabbed each other in the back, but they didn’t widely publish much useful research or data which could have been used to protect the environment. Nor did they wish to dirty their hands with consultancy, preferring instead to sneer from the sidelines. A real shame which resulted in massive destruction of valuable habitat.
Despite the gross pollution of the streams, riverbank (riparian) vegetation (such as this alocasia and sedge) provides a rich habitat for insects which in turn sustain birds and mammals.
The scene before the railway works…no air pollution
With my small team of ecologists, I found all three species within a few minutes and a few metres along the stream near Yuen Kong San Tsuen. Also present, following our walkover at a distance, were the project managing senior engineer and the senior environmental scientist (SES). When we found the fish, the SES (lauded within the company) realising that this was a show-stopper for the works on this river advised the engineer ‘if you tipped poison down the river, the problem would go away’. Rather than pursue this comment on site, I confronted him back at the office in front of our manager. Naturally, he passed the comment off as a joke, and our manager believed him. This incident set the three of us on a course of many collisions.
The outcome of the survey was embarrassing for more than one project. Incompetence (or deliberate oversight) by previous surveys had found nothing of interest. Works for the new railway line to Tuen Mun, as can be seen in this photo, prematurely started channelisation of the same river without any monitoring or mitigation. This photo also shows gross air pollution, which the rail project works caused.
Unchecked run-off from the new Route 3 works poured straight into the nearest stream.
For several consecutive years, natural channels all across Kam Tin valley were straightened, deepened and confined in stone and concrete. After the fact, hydrologists began to speculate that the water table might have been lowered.
Fishponds were filled
Water Buffalo – originally the Chinese farmers\’ tractor. As farms were abandoned, the beasts of burden were set loose. By the late 90s, around 100 feral bred and wandered around the Kam Tin area. Protective maternal cows being particularly dangerous to people walking through the fields.
A large, shed snake skin. Probably a Cobra, there are two species in HK: the Chinese Cobra Naja atra can grow to a metre and a half; the King Cobra Ophiophagus hanna typically grows to 3 – 4 metres. Both are highly venomous.
This Asiatic Painted Frog K pulchra pulchra was trapped in a bucket until we came along and liberated it.
Spotted Narrow-mouthed Frog Kalophrynus interlineatus
Acting on information I\’d read from an AFCD officer, I also recorded this tiny, fascinating fish; the Rose Bitterling Rhodeus ocellatus shown here in the cap of a 35mm film canister. This rare fish (known only from three countries) has a symbiotic relationship with freshwater mussels – the female fish laying its eggs inside the shell fish for incubation.
An over-ripe guava causes an insect feeding frenzy led by a Red Ring Skirt Hestina assimilis
A mantis lies in wait on a guava.
Red Helen Papilio helenus drinking from a dirty river in the southern Kam Tin valley
The riparian habitat supported this stunning little butterfly, the Purple Sapphire Heliophorous phoenicoparyphus, once considered uncommon.
Dark Cerulean Jamides bochus
Common Flangetail Ictinogomphus pertinax, one of the larger dragonflies in HK
Coastal Glider Macrodiplax cora
Red-faced Skimmer Orthetrum chrysis
The Orange-faced Sprite Pseudagrion rubriceps rubriceps is a beautifully coloured damselfly. Like many damselflies, being so small and fine, you have to look very carefully to find them. I found this species (uncommon in the new territories) in the southern Kam Tin valley, alongside a river due to be channelised.
Orange-tailed Sprite Ceriagrion auranticum rykuyuanum damselfly
Not as dangerous as a feral Water Buffalo, but a faceful of Large Woodland Spider web is an unpleasant experience. These spiders construct webs across footpaths to capture butterflies, small bats and large human walkers.