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4 May 2022

Hong Kong’s Frogs

At Chatteris, we love to explore Hong Kong’s vast country parks on hikes, stream treks and educational trips. In this blog post, Chatteris’ own Eibhlin McMenamin, teaches us about some adorable amphibians that we may come across while out and about.

As anyone who’s attended an excursion with the Chatteris Nature Walks Club (or spent about five minutes in my vicinity) will know that I am obsessed with frogs. Thankfully, my cold, wet friends are very much in the zeitgeist right now, so strap yourself in and get ready to hear all about amphibians. Hong Kong has 23 native frog species, here I’ll give you a guide to the three you are most likely to see, and a special mention to the only endemic species of frog. 

Asian common toads are small, grumpy, and found all over the place. I’ve seen them from Sha Tin to Kowloon and once, on a stormy night on Hong Kong Island, a biblical amount frolicking in the catchwaters. In all honesty, if you’ve seen a frog in Hong Kong, I am 90% sure it is this bad boy. To identify them look for a black semi-circle behind their eyes, which gives them the nickname of ‘spectacled toad’. Also: there is no such thing as a toad- it is just a name given to some frogs which have been deemed ‘warty’, there is no scientific reason behind it. 

Banded bullfrogs are also known as the Asian painted frog, or even ‘chubby frog’. As you can imagine from these monikers, they are absolute chonkers with a distinctive colouring (a lighter band across the flank, ranging in hue from orange to brown). They are ant-hunting specialists, and can chow down on more than 200 ants in just one night. I’ve personally come across these frogs on Lamma Island and in Sai Kung, and they are delightfully chubby little creatures. They get the bullfrog name from their quite frankly aggressive mating call- imagine someone playing the bagpipes in a bin and you get the picture. 

Also known as the brown tree frog (in spite of them actually not being tree frogs- a tree frog spends its life in the trees, rarely coming down to ground level). You can recognise whipping frogs if you see them by their long, snout-like mouth. They are probably the most ‘frog’ looking frog in Hong Kong, if you know what I mean. Straight out of a fairy tale illustration and into Kowloon. I saw stacks of these guys at Kowloon Walled City Park with the Nature Walk gang, and I’ve seen them up in Sai Kung as well. 

This is Hong Kong’s only endemic frog species – it is found nowhere else on Earth – and these guys are absolute fighters. They were first thought to be found in only one cave on Lamma Island, and were declared extinct when this cave partially collapsed. However, they were rediscovered on Chek Lap Kok just before the airport began construction. The construction carried on, and the frogs were rescued and distributed to zoos around the world. More than 700 frogs were raised in captivity as far afield as Germany, and later transferred to Lamma Island, where they continue to cling on to existence in the face of new challenges: invasive mosquito fish eating their eggs and climate change causing havoc to river catchments.  

You may be wondering, “why frogs?” To which I would ask if you have ever seen a frog? How could you not love them? But I’d also like to take a second to answer that – frogs are a great indicator of ecosystem health – their weak lungs and dependence on clean water mean that their populations can be used to monitor pollution. The fact that they need to consume around 100 insects per night also means we can use them to monitor insect numbers, another key indicator of ecosystem health. Finally, frogs are ancient beings. They first evolved about 375 million years ago (for comparison, Australopithecus, our oldest ancestor, only popped up about 4 million years ago). Put some respect on your elders and find a frog today.

Are you interested in exploring Hong Kong’s ecological side, like Eibhlin? Apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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