A welcome package deal 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 aimed 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 writer’s YouTube channel SnakeID TV, a should look ahead to anyone fascinated 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 pictures is, to my eyes, too darkish.
The e-book is a leap ahead from the practically 25-year previous 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 area 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) said 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 Warfare. There was additionally a attainable sighting within the wild in 1980. In contrast, Francis writes that they’re discovered throughout Hong Kong in practically each freshwater surroundings. 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 really 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 Crimson Listing has it tagged as ‘Extant and Launched’ in Hong Kong. My finest 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 previous one. That’s as a result of there’s a lengthy historical past of stay 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 had been launched. The commerce in China has been boosted by farming however, general together with extreme lack of habitats, has accomplished a lot harm that quite a few species at the moment are categorised 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 huge numbers of Crimson-eared Sliders within the ponds and lakes of public parks and reservoirs. A stroll down the fish and pet outlets on Choi Tung Road in Kowloon, presents a bewildering show of younger chelonians of many alternative species from all components 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 supplies 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 a minimum of these during which Hong Kong could 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 categorised by IUCN as Critically Endangered, 2 as Endangered and 1 as Susceptible. What an infinite lower in wild populations there was up to now 50 years. Within the Nineteen Sixties, all of the native species had been on the market in giant 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 offered within the stay meals markets, it was regarded, once more, as Launched. Nonetheless, the present distribution map within the IUCN Crimson Listing reveals that Hong Kong is nicely 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 categorised as Critically Endangered.
In recommending this e-book to anyone fascinated by Hong Kong reptiles or chelonians basically, it does include a couple of issues for the British English-speaking world. The title, A Area Information to the Turtles of Hong Kong, would counsel it considerations marine chelonians. ‘Freshwater Turtles’ would signify its protection even when freshwater turtles to Brits are terrapins (sarcastically 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, may be be rotating in his grave.
The association of the e-book additionally appears slightly unusual. The plates come first whereas the ‘introduction’ (which features a part on poaching and safety) is on the finish. It might 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 writer’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