Thursday, 30 March 2017

The University of Hong Kong was a site for more than birds in the 1960s

In the 1960s, the University Compound’s pathways teemed at night with the toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus (formerly Bufo melanostictus), along with introduced Giant African Snail, Achatina fulica.

Duttaphyrnus melanostictus

The lily pond had large numbers of Guenther’s Frogs (Sylvirana, previously Hylarana guentheri).

Lily pond, University of Hong Kong, constructed in the early 1950s. The trees

were non-native. From Mellor, B. The University of Hong Kong, An Informal
History.  Hong Kong University Press, 1980

After heavy rain, the gardeners disturbed a couple of the microhylid, Kaloula pulchra, outside our lab building, the old Building 15 of the medical school (which by 1965 had moved to its new quarters on Sassoon Road).

Kaloula pulchra

The same location revealed a couple of Brahminy Blind Snakes under an old flowerpot. This species, now going under the name of Indotyphlops braminus, has been introduced into many parts of the world in...flowerpots.

This photograph from 1950 shows a University Congregation processing along
Pokfulam Road. I found Kaloula pulchra over the wall to the right, 17 years later
All the building in view have been demolished. From Mellor 1980

Street lamps and flats had the Oriental Leaf-toed Gecko, Hemidactylus bowringii. They often looked thin and underfed like the one I photographed.

Hemidactylus bowringii

A squad of gardeners looked after the compound and cleared fallen leaves. Snakes were, therefore, not to be expected. However, we did one spot a couple of times an Indo-Chinese Rat Snake, Ptyas korros, on the ground at the base of a tree directly below our balcony at 3 University Drive.

The only other snake seen took me by surprise. I opened a lab drawer containing glassware one morning to find a White-spotted Slug Snake (Pareas margaritophorus) less than happy at being disturbed.

If only digital camera traps had been invented in the 60s, we might have got an idea what, if any, mammals, other than rats, mice and domestic cats and watchmen were living in or visiting the Compound. A Chinese Ferret Badger (Melogale moschata) or two would be my bet.

Oliver LA, Prendini E, Kraus F, Raxworthy CJ. 2015. Systematics and biogeography of the Hylarana frog (Anura: Ranidae) radiation across tropical Australasia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 90, 176-192. 

Hedges SB, Marion AB, Lipp KM, Marin J, Vidal N.  2014. A taxonomic framework for typhlopid snakes from the Caribbean and other regions (Reptilia, Squamata). Caribbean Herpetology 49, 1–61.