A spiky surprise
I saw a porcupine on The Peak on Friday evening. In fact, I saw two. Heading back from a very cold couple of hours high up on High West, I was making my way along Lugard Road to catch the bus when, rustling out of the undergrowth about fifteen metres in front of me, a rather large and rather spiky thing emerged into the orange glow of the street lights. It paused a few seconds sniffing the air, had a little look left and right as every well-schooled, safety-conscious porcupine should, then carried on across the path and up the other side of the hill.
It wasn’t exactly inconspicuous, fully grown and dragging its spines across the pavement before shuffling its way, like a lost drunk, through the bushes. It also wasn’t exactly smelling great either. Apparently, porcupines can release a bit of a stink when they feel threatened. They raise their quills and release something that smells like a mixture of cat piss and Old Spice (maybe it was a lost drunk after all) and will almost certainly get you wondering when the last time you showered was. They are also one of the few mammals whose skin contains its own antibiotic – just in case it accidentally sticks itself with one of its quills – while the quills themselves contain a fluorescent pigment that makes them appear brighter at night in order to ward off predators. Pretty cool!
I hadn’t even known such things existed in Hong Kong. I was so surprised that instead of going straight for my camera, I just stood and stared, not wanting to scare him off too soon and amazed that such a creature was wandering around up there as if the last 100 years of urban development hadn’t happened. If I’d done my research, I’d have known that the area around Lugard Road is not unfamiliar territory for the porcupine. Although they generally only venture out at night, there have been several sightings up there in the gloom. Not what you would expect in the middle of Hong Kong Island.
I’ve read that there are wild boars and pythons up in the New Territories. There even used to be tigers in Hong Kong back in the early days. And everyone knows about Hong Kong’s monkeys. Maybe I’ll draw up a list, grab my camera and head out hunting next weekend. As for the porcupines, they were too fast for me to get a photo. But at least we’ve got this ‘artist’s impression’ that I managed to whip up.
I’ve been so surprised by the number of people finding this post and letting everybody know about their own HK wildlife sightings. It’s been great to hear about everyone elses’ exciting encounters. Keep up the good work.
Given the increasing number of sightings, and because I’m a massive geek, I decided to start plotting them on Google Maps so that anyone who’s interested in going on their own HK wildlife hunt can use it to decide where’s best to start looking.
Well, I’ve finally done it. It’s been over two years since my first Hong Kong porcupine encounter, but I’ve finally got the photographic evidence I’ve been looking for.
There were four of them all together, crossing Coombe Road from the children’s play area and disappearing into the undergrowth on the other side. Only they didn’t disappear. They stuck around, munching on branches, not caring at all that an excited guy with a camera was busy taking photos and videoing them in action. Thanks guys!
Get Involved: If you’ve had your own run-in with any of Hong Kong’s spiky night time wanderers (or any other cool kinda wildlife for that matter), please let me know what, where and when in the comments below and I can add it to the map. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to get a quick photograph, it’d be great if you could post the picture too. Happy hunting!