Herping for Hong Kong Warty Newt and Amphibian Cultural influence to Japan and Hong Kong

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achiinto

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I have visited Hong Kong and Japan in Late December and finally ready to sit down and type up a report of my herping experience.

Here is what I will talk about:
1) Japan (No Herping, but observation of amphibian culture)
2) Hong Kong Tai Po Kau Herping
3) Hong Kong Gold Fish Street Experience
4) Hong Kong (Location C) Herping
5) Hong Kong Amphibian Culture
6) Hong Kong Ocean Park - Chinese Giant Salamander

All details are posted. Sorry for any grammar mistakes as there are lot to talk about and very little time to organize. I will upload some Japanese Caudata and Anura Toys photos later on, just for fun.
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A

achiinto

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1) Japan (No Herping, but observation of amphibian culture)

First, I visited Japan with a tour. I observed lot of products related to frogs. Including some Cute frogs character figures made with glasses, many other products useful for kitchen and bathroom. Out of all products, I found in a major toy department store that there are a series of Frog toys that is co-produced with Amphibian Ark. Especially for one of the series that are plastic 1-to-1 ratio Japanese Frog and Toad figures. The models and their colors are very realistic. I have seen some Canadian conservation group demonstrated Amphibian education through some scientific model that probably worth $200 a piece. I am amazed that these Japanese toy figures are selling 2 to 3 dollars a piece. Not to say that the Japanese toys have better sculpt, details and color. Furthermore, the toys distribution is wide, it reaches all over the world and all of Japan, and targeted the younger generation. Further more on this in Section 5.

Other than the toys, I also actively searching for local field guides, especially on Japanese salamander/newt. I went to many book stores and finally found one field guide. Hopefully, when I visit Japan again in the future, I will be able to herp for them.
 
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achiinto

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2) Hong Kong Tai Po Kau Herping

Here, I was back to Hong Kong again and started my 2nd attempt to herp for Hong Kong Warty Newts. My first attempt was documented on "In Search of Hong Kong Warty Newt (2009 January)" (http://www.caudata.org/forum/f1173-...search-hong-kong-warty-newt-2009-january.html).

I have limited time to herp, but I really wanted to find Hong Kong warty newt in person in the wild. I knew that there is a great chance to find newt in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, which I have visited in the first attempt with failure. This time, I went earlier, by around a month, on December 24th with my girl friend. I started searching for newts in a open and wide area with calm water (Location A). This location is relatively easy to access and directly down stream of very rocky stream area. I have also attempted to search for this newt in my first attempt at the exact spot. However, I failed to find one. However, a monkey came very near me and drank water from the stream. Don't know if it is wise to assume that monkey might prey on the newts as food? Or the possible poison would deter them.

Then I moved a little bit more down stream, 50 meters, and continued my search (Location B). At first glance, there was no sign of newts. So, we focused on searching for the fishes and other wildlife in the area. This area has clam water. Leaf litters line at the floor of the stream and also served as the main energy source that sustained the life in the stream. You may also check my previous post about my first attempt that I mentioned a field guide, many fish species mentioned in the field guide were observed in Location B (Pseudogastromyzon myersi in particular was identified). Also observed a type of aquatic snail (possibly Brotia hainanensis) and an insect (Ptilomera tigrina).

As soon as I tried to poke the roots branched out at the bank of the stream into the water area, since I suspected that newt might be interested to seek shelter in such place, my girl friend noticed a Hong Kong Warty Newt. We netted it out and took a series of photos. Based on observation, it should be a healthy male. When we released it, it seek shelter immediately to under a leaf litter, then swam to under a rock.

Then I talked to a local Park Ranger for a long while. I, at first, did not reveal my sighting of the Hong Kong Warty Newt, as it is a threatened species that is illegal to disturb. Later on, he suggested it is okay to take it out and take photo but not to collect them. I asked that there seems to be a very small population of Hong Kong Warty Newts in this Nature Reserve. He suggested that there might be a lot of illegal collecting in here. Especially, people are collecting Three-banded box terrapin (Cuora trifasciata) and selling them in black market as more than one or two thousands (USD) each.

I later on found out from a family close friend that his brother, a local police, has collected three terrapins by traps and sold them for a good deal a long time before. It is not hard to imagine why such species is becoming more rarer than ever and also how difficult it is to protect wildlife species for illegal harvesting.

I think since I am not a Local in Hong Kong (I am was born in Hong Kong and speak their language, but my behavior and appearance is more foreign and I told him so), the ranger told me a good site to find Hong Kong Warty Newt. He gave me a map for free and also taught me how to go there. This site (location C), according to the ranger and also later on by my observation, has abundant number of Hong Kong Warty Newts. However, since I would like to avoid local people to collect the newts and destroy the population, I will not reveal the exact location or other detailed information. I will talk about Location C in Section 4. I will also make a comparison between Location B(this site) and Location C (later day) in Section 4.

Photos:
1) & 2) Hong Kong Warty Newt found
3) Hong Kong warty Newt released, see how it seek the nearest shelter immediately.
4) aquatic snail (possibly Brotia hainanensis)
5) Monkey that visited the stream
6) & 7) Location A
8) Location B, the roots of the tree near the stream bank. The Newt was found hiding among the roots.
 

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achiinto

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3) Hong Kong Gold Fish Street Experience

After I played a visit to Tai Po Kau on December 24th 2009, I visited the Gold Fish Street on the same day. Hong Kong has an interesting local culture that stores tend to accumulate by category, and the Gold Fish Street is just like that, a street filled up with aquarium stores and pet stores. There are lot of fishes of all kinds in very cheap price. For example, Neo Tetra was selling 18 HK$ for 100, if I remembered correctly. Very nice build glass aquarium was very cheap as well. It was amazing to see price getting so low with so many competition. There are also stores specialized in exotic pets. Such as various beetles and reptiles. One of my goal to visit gold fish street again is to find information related to Caudata Hobby.

Out of many aquarium stores, I finally located a store that sell newts. They are all Chinese species: Chinese Fire Belly Newts, Fuzong Warty Newts (I believe) and Paddle Tailed Newts. See photos. Fire belly newts were selling $8 HKD each and named as "Red Belly Newt"; Paddle Tail was selling $10 each and is being named as "Pattern less Fat Newt"; Warty Newt was selling $12 each and is named as "Many Warts Newt". I took a few snap shots and the store owners stared at me very unhappily... so what?

I then also visited a store that named something literally "Reptile Jungle" but english name being "City Jungle". It is in the upper level. In the store, I saw newts and axolotls kept in very small plastic enclosures (boxes). I will document my conversation with the store owner here, as it really pissed me off:

Myself (I) talking to my girl friend: "Hey, there is Axolotl, a golden one as well. And what is that.... ar... the Marbled Newt".

Store Owner (J): "No, that is not Marbled. It is European Newt."

I: "No way, I never heard of European Newt. It is Marbled Newt."

J: "Marble looks like that?"

I: "Well, I can't say for sure this is called Marbled Newt, but this is definitely not called European Newt."

J: (In English), "I don't want to Argue, I don't want to argue..."

I: (I thought, I never wanted to argue, I never intended to talk to you anyway.)
I: Replied, "Fine, whatever you like, as long as we know what we are talking about."

J: "That is what they call them from my source."

I: (Yea... that is why I wanted to tell you the true common name of the species...) "Isn't it too hot to keep in this environment?"

J: "No, it is okay, room temperature is alright." (it was rather hot, and summer in Hong Kong is a big deal)

I: Looking at the small enclosure used to keep the axolotls, I asked "Using such a small container to keep them, it must be lot of work to change water very frequently for them."

J: "Well, if you are interested in what you do, it is no big deal."

I: (I thought, 'Yea right, if you are so interested, you would have know what the animal name is and you would not keep an axolotl in a container that just barely fit it in and too hot...')

Then I got so pissed off, I turned away and left. He totally ruined my date being so ignorant. Anyway, they have Marbled newt and axololts in the store. There are definitely more availability of Caudata hobby than in Canada. I will have to find out how the wildlife export law from Hong Kong to Canada.

Sorry about the rant, but I really need to let it out.

Photos:
1) Store that sell the Chinese Newt Species
2) Paddle tail newts
3) Fire Belly Newts
4) Warty Newts
5) Various Fish, typical sight in Hong Kong Gold Fish Street.
 

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achiinto

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4) Hong Kong (Location C) Herping

On December 26th 2009, at the Location C. As discussed, I don't want to give out too much details about this location as I want to avoid illegal collecting of Newts by locals.

It is again a hill stream, It took me some 45 mins to an hour of hiking to this site. At the pond that I have located the Newts, the water is very calm, and the water area was only around 2 meters square with depth of at most one feet. it should be a part of the stream, but the upstream water is only collected from a very small water fall that created very small disturbance to the water body. It does not lead to down stream water, so most likely an isolated end of the stream branch or that water might be go out from underneath the substrate as underground water. The substrate is mainly sandy with some leaf litter that probably provided the energy source to the small ecosystem in this pond. Some broken branches from trees above are also in the water body.

I found a population of Hong Kong Warty Newts in this location, I was able to collect the newts easily and netted out 13 newts. All newts are males, so it is possible that it is early in the mating seasons which the males gathered first and the female will join in. Or possibly that the female have arrived already and left and this is the end of the mating season. However, I was not able to observe any eggs or larvae. So, it is more likely the beginning of the season. Or another possibility is that the this location is not a mating site, but rather a site for feeding. I observed so territorial aggressive among the newts. Does Hong Kong Warty Newts Male aggressive or Female? Someone who actually kept them as pets or simple know more about this species might add on to it.

Along with the newts, there is also a great population of shrimps, probably Caridina cantonensis, and netted a waterbug, Enithares sp. In such small water body I observe no other species of animal. Does this suggest that the shrimp being the major food source for the newts? When the shrimps and newts kept together temporarily in the small enclosure I have, no shrimp was preyed by the newts and they did not show any predator behavior. Possibly stressed? If I get the chance to visit the site again later in the season, I might be able to find out more.

I also noticed a few newts being much thinner, also saw some with the head partly white(patches of scratch), as if it has went through some burrowing to crawl out from it hide.

I tried to look around the site, but access to the main stream is difficult and seems to have lot of potential hiding places that are out of reach. Next to the pond also has a sign from the park indicating that illegal harvesting of wild turtle is not allowed. Note that it list as turtles, so perhaps there were turtles before or possible just an universal sign to prevent illegal harvesting.

In comparing with Location B, Location C is a much smaller and calmer water body that is very isolated from the main stream. There seems to have less biodiversity in Location C in comparison to location B. There will be less competition in Location C, but might also have less choice of food. Newts in Location C have less hiding place and more vulnerable to predation, yet the population seems to be more condense and seems to be healthier.

Photos:
1, 2, 6, 7 & 8) Newts
3 ) Newt Head that has white patches of scratch
4) Close up of Newt Genital area
5) Abundant population of Shrimps
 

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achiinto

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Photos:
9 & 12: Newts just released from my temporary captive
10: Water bug
11: Close up of shrimps
13: Leaf of the tree overhead
14: Plant next to the pond
15: Plant next to the pond, possibly Acorus gramineus
16: Plant next to the pond,
 

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achiinto

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Photos:
17) A view of the forest
18) A view of the pond
19) A view of the upstream
 

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achiinto

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5) Hong Kong Amphibian Culture

Overall, most Hong Kong People have no idea what Newt is. For those uneducated will simply refer them as Fish or Bug. Some will think of them as Gecko. The species that is most popular in Hong Kong or in China is the Chinese Giant Salamander. This might possibly because the Giant Salamander has it brief appearance in a famous Chinese Historic Fantasy novel.

I also visited some toy stores in Hong Kong, which Japanese Collectible toys being very popular among children and adults alike. I found more Field Guide toys of Japanese species, this time Salamander. Again amazed by the Japanese appreciation of Amphibians and their smart way to education their people about their local wildlife. One of the toy store owner asked I am interested in these things. I thought he meant if I am interested in collecting salamander related toys, so I replied "No, I actually kept these as pet." His reply was that himself as well a Caudata keeper; he keeps Tiger salamander. Then the rest of the conversation was really positive.

6) Hong Kong Ocean Park - Chinese Giant Salamander

I visited the Hong Kong Ocean Park, in purpose to see the Chinese Giant Salamander. This individual has much paler color than the Japanese species I saw in Detroit Zoo. It is also comparatively bigger and more active. I remembered the two Detroit Japanese Giant Salamanders rarely moved during the 2 hours period I stared at them a year ago. However, this Chinese Giant Salamander seldom stopped and actively moved around. The Giant Salamander shared the same exhibit with Giant Panda and Red Panda.

Photos:
1 & 2: Giant Salamander
4: Enclosure (that dude was not me, and I don't know him... And he is not a Giant Salamander.)
3: Giant Panda
5 & 6: Signs at the exhibit
 

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Yahilles

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I haven't yet finished reading but for now i MUST thank you for this incredibly informative post! You're great!
 

eljorgo

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No doubt!! It was really amazing to read and see your pictures!! An excellent appointment of far Chinese environments... I was amazed with their ponds... and by the existence of those shrimp. Do you know witch shrimp their are?
cheers,
 

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Great read! If they are going to have lots of WC animals for sale at least they are keeping them clean. Sadly there are few American stores these days that keep their caudates in similar conditions.
Chip
 
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achiinto

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No doubt!! It was really amazing to read and see your pictures!! An excellent appointment of far Chinese environments... I was amazed with their ponds... and by the existence of those shrimp. Do you know witch shrimp their are?
cheers,
I am amazed how isolated the pond is to the stream. The shrimp should be Caridina cantonensis.

May i also ask how big were the newts?
I recall some where about 4.5 inches long. Somewhat similar length to my captive Fuzong Warty Newt.

(Leave some reputations for me if you like this thread, I found that I lost many rep after being less active on the forum. :) )
 

eljorgo

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Caridina cantonensis? Do you think so? Crystal red, Tiger and all his variants among others belong to cantonensis.... Don´t you think they might be rather some sort of Neocaridina? Like heteropoda var. wild?
Cheers,
 

Nathan050793

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That was really interesting, and it was especially fascinating to hear about how the Chinese view Caudates in the area. Great photos, thanks for sharing!
 
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achiinto

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Caridina cantonensis? Do you think so? Crystal red, Tiger and all his variants among others belong to cantonensis.... Don´t you think they might be rather some sort of Neocaridina? Like heteropoda var. wild?
Cheers,
Well, I don't know that much about shrimps. However, I got this straight from the Hong Kong Hill Stream Field Guide from the Government. It is possible that other shrimp in Hong Kong might look similar and not documented in this field guide. But the photo on the field guide is very similar.

Here is the text content of about Caridina cantonensis:
"Commonest and most widespread of the Hong Kong species of Caridina. Found among trailing roots and vegetation along banks or among dead leaves in pools. Almost transparent to pale brown, although brooding females are darker and greenish, blue or even red. Brushlike hair tufts on the two pairs of pincers." (P62 Dudgeon: Hong Kong Field Guide: Hillstreams/ The Department of Ecology & Biodiversity, The University of Hong Kong.)

So, I don't know much about the other variants that also named Caridina contonesis. Will it be possible that those are captive breed population that genetically colored? While the natural and wild type is actually transparent? Or the variants are regional?
 
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achiinto

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That was really interesting, and it was especially fascinating to hear about how the Chinese view Caudates in the area. Great photos, thanks for sharing!
Well. Even if they have heard of the Giant Salamander, they probably do not know that it is an amphibian. They would have think of it as Fish. That is because the name of the Giant Salamander is called Doll Fish. This name came from the rumor/fact that Giant Salamander will make sound similar to baby cry.
 
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achiinto

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Great read! If they are going to have lots of WC animals for sale at least they are keeping them clean. Sadly there are few American stores these days that keep their caudates in similar conditions.
Chip
I do notice that the Chinese Fish stores do keep the Newts very clean in the aquarium. But interestingly, the aquarium has no cover and with get disturbance from the air pump filter (note the photos). And the aquarium was set up out side of the store. So, likely they pack up everything everyday and set it up again, while keeping the newts/fishes back to plastic bags.

Also note that they many stores sell their fish in the plastic bag. I think they expect the fish to be sold on the day. So that turn over is fast and lot of people buy fishes everyday for their aquarium hobby. I do suspect that many people just buy the fishes to keep for a few weeks and let it die. Then they go buy new fishes again simply because they are cheap in price.

Sadly, I also believe that many people (not all) would just buy the newts and let it die or escape, enjoy only the short stay of the newts in their captivity. Look at the price of the newts selling in HK, that is 1/7th of the price I have to pay for Chinese Fire Belly Newt and we thought that $7 Canadian is very cheap already.
 

jamminnewt

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Hey!

Thanks for the great information and sharing your adventures with us. It sounds like you had an interesting trip. It would be really cool if we had caudate stores in the US. I have no newts right now and miss them. I hope that the species you saw will remain so that one day I can go looking and find them too.

Thanks!
 

mikebenard

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Excellent account!
 
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