A welcome bundle from Hong Kong arrived. It contained the brand new, quick (75-page) e book on the freshwater chelonians of Hong Kong. This quantity, written and self-published by Adam Francis, enhances his earlier quantity on the snakes of Hong Kong which appeared in 2021.
The e book is geared toward serving to and inspiring those that search for reptiles within the wild—an more and more standard exercise in Hong Kong, with each books spin-outs from the creator’s YouTube channel SnakeID TV, a should look ahead to anyone interested by Hong Kong wildlife, and its related web site, hongkongsnakeID.com. Just like the e book on snakes this one is lavishly illustrated even when the printing of the images is, to my eyes, too darkish.
The e book is a leap ahead from the practically 25-year outdated second version of Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles by Karsen, Lau and Bogadek. There are two causes for this. The primary is the vastly elevated variety of discipline observations and images. The second is that it covers the growing numbers of launched species which have appeared within the wild.
One instance of the leap ahead in data is the case of Mauremys (previously Ocadia) sinensis – the Chinese language Stripe-necked Terrapin. The usual story (within the Karsen, Lau & Bogadek e book) acknowledged that the one specimen recognized from Hong Kong was a single particular person dug up from a dried-out pond in Stanley Internment Camp throughout the Second World Struggle. There was additionally a potential sighting within the wild in 1980. Against this, Francis writes that they’re discovered throughout Hong Kong in practically each freshwater setting. Nonetheless, I’ve re-read Geoffrey Herklots’s account during which he described and drew the person present in Stanley and I think his story has been misinterpreted as a result of he truly wrote of this species as ‘much less widespread’ than Reeves’s Terrapin. In different phrases it was recognized from Hong Kong earlier than the one from Stanley turned as much as feed a hungry internee in Stanley.
All through, Mauremy sinensis has been thought of an Launched species in Hong Kong, a classification maintained by Francis. Nonetheless, Hong Kong is inside its recognized vary and the IUCN Pink Checklist has it tagged as ‘Extant and Launched’ in Hong Kong. My greatest guess is that it’s native to Hong Kong however was decreased to very low numbers by assortment for human consumption.
The issue of deciding what species are native to Hong Kong is an outdated one. That’s as a result of there’s a lengthy historical past of dwell freshwater chelonians being imported for human meals and for conventional Chinese language drugs. A few of these, in addition to some people caught regionally, escaped or have been launched. The commerce in China has been boosted by farming however, general together with extreme lack of habitats, has executed a lot harm that a variety of species at the moment are labeled as Critically Endangered or Endangered. In newer years, there has additionally been commerce in pet chelonians, with the late twentieth century worldwide increase in ‘child turtles’ from the USA being evident from the presence of enormous numbers of Pink-eared Sliders within the ponds and lakes of public parks and reservoirs. A stroll down the fish and pet retailers on Choi Tung Road in Kowloon, presents a bewildering show of younger chelonians of many various species from all elements of the world and it’s hardly stunning that adults are launched into our bodies of freshwater, or within the case of tortoises, to the forests and parks. Some stunning additions to the Hong Kong fauna have appeared; the Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata) is one instance.
Adam Francis gives data for the identification of 17 species. Of those he marks 11 as Launched (together with Mauremys sinensis, talked about above). together with 3 from North America, and 1 from Africa. Of the native (or at the very least these during which Hong Kong can be included as a part of their pure vary or forming a comparatively small extension) 6 by Francis’s reckoning, 7 by mine. 4 are labeled by IUCN as Critically Endangered, 2 as Endangered and 1 as Weak. What an infinite lower in wild populations there was prior to now 50 years. Within the Nineteen Sixties, all of the native species have been on the market in massive numbers within the markets of Hong Kong.
One species that doesn’t get a point out within the e book is Mauremys mutica or Chinese language Pond Terrapin. Though recorded in earlier years and bought within the dwell meals markets, it was regarded, once more, as Launched. Nonetheless, the present distribution map within the IUCN Pink Checklist reveals that Hong Kong is effectively inside its pure vary. Has it now disappeared (even when from Launched people) from Hong Kong? It has declined all through its vary to the extent it’s now additionally labeled as Critically Endangered.
In recommending this e book to anyone interested by Hong Kong reptiles or chelonians basically, it does include a couple of issues for the British English-speaking world. The title, A Discipline Information to the Turtles of Hong Kong, would counsel it issues marine chelonians. ‘Freshwater Turtles’ would signify its protection even when freshwater turtles to Brits are terrapins (mockingly an Algonquin phrase adopted in British utilization for ‘water-tortoises’). Within the e book, the widespread names used for some species embody ‘terrapin’ whereas others embody ‘turtle’, for instance, Chinese language Striped Terrapin; Beale’s 4-eyed Turtle.
One actual error is the eponymous Reeves’s Terrapin which is proven all through as ‘Reeve’s Terrapin’. John Reeves (1774-1856) who despatched the specimens to London and labored largely in Macau as Inspector of Tea for the East India Firm, is likely to be be rotating in his grave.
The association of the e book additionally appears somewhat unusual. The plates come first whereas the ‘introduction’ (which features a part on poaching and safety) is on the finish. It will even have been helpful to have a listing of synonyms which might make in search of or cross-referencing earlier publications simpler.
The e book prices HKD 220 (roughly £23). I’ve solely seen it on the market by booksellers in Hong Kong and the creator’s web site (with the latter restricted to batches of ten).
Herklots GAC. 1951. The Hong Kong Countryside. Hong Kong: South China Morning Publish.
Karsen SJ, Lau M W-N, Bogadek A. 1998. Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles. Second Version. Hong Kong: Provisional City Council. ISBN 962-7849-05-7