Header images courtesy of Fashila Kanakka and @kadoorie_farm_botanic_garden (via Instagram)
Living in a vibrant city like Hong Kong, one may think there are terribly slim chances of spotting wild, exotic animals in this concrete jungle (aside from the sparrows and pigeons that excrete on our clothes—yes, not very pleasant). Sure, we obviously don’t have the vast savannahs or dense rainforests, but what we do have are beautiful gems right in the middle of urban districts. Our parks are much like an oasis in the middle of the desert, always a delight to come across.
Whether you are aware of it or not, these parks are dwellings to some of the most exotic (and photogenic) animals from across the globe! And the best part? You don’t have to pay $498 as an entrance fee to get close to different animals—these parks are all open to the public! Follow our list below as we take you across different parks in Hong Kong whilst showing you the abundance of wildlife that resides there.
A former Government House site, the Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical Gardens was founded in 1864 and was first opened to the public in 1871, making it the oldest park in Hong Kong. It is amongst one of the oldest zoological parks in the world as well. The Zoological & Botanical Gardens also symbolises historic significance; a bronze statue of King George IV commemorates 100 years of British rule, and a memorial arch sits at the southern entrance of the park to pay homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the World War I and II.
As you enter the Zoological & Botanical Gardens, it’s rather peaceful. Rich flora act as a carpet, completely covering large sections of land, like a mini Dutch flower field, if you will. With around 900 species of flowers, the garden brings much vibrancy and tranquillity. Then, as you venture further into the park, the high-pitched grunting sounds of monkeys can be heard in the distance. There are about 200 birds, 70 mammals, and 30 reptiles raised in various cages, which is quite a variety! There’s even a taxidermy specimen of a female jaguar (dead, but it still looks strikingly alive) that lived in Hong Kong for 20 years. Other wild animals in the park include Bornean orangutans, ring-tailed lemurs, white-faced sakis, and the intriguing Burmese python.
The Kadoorie brothers, Lord Lawrence Kadoorie and Sir Horace Kadoorie, initially planted seeds in this farm to aid less-privileged farmers. It later transformed into a biodiversity conservation site to raise environmental awareness and has shifted its focus to sustainability in Hong Kong.
Now home to a plethora of flowers and animals, the park attracts hundreds of visitors every week. Near the Sun Garden Animal Exhibit, you can see wild animals rescued from illegal trade—you can sense the animals’ vulnerability at close proximity and learn to appreciate the wildlife.
The Wildlife Walkthrough consists of beautiful, coral flamingos, tough alligators, and the ever-so-gentle tortoises. Wildlife beauty comes in small packages as well (for which you may need a macro lens in hand)—the Butterfly Garden is a serene, brisk walk encompassing a handful of 250 species of butterflies and 3,000 species of moths. Be sure not to miss the rare golden coin turtle and the tiny Romer’s tree frog at the Amphibian and Reptile House.
Nestled at the far end of the Flower Market towards Mong Kok East, you can usually hear this Chinese-style bird garden long before you can see it. The birds’ chirping is often masked by loud barking from dogs at a nearby residential building, so one may underestimate just how many birds are perched in Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. This park is famous amongst the older locals who like to “take their birds for a walk” in their traditional bamboo birdcages.
Speaking of birdcages, Chan Lok-choi, the shopowner of Choi Kee, is Hong Kong’s only remaining birdcage maker, who has been making intricate cages for about 60 years now. In cages, you are likely to find tiny sparrows, canaries, budgies, oriental magpie-robins, and some other exotic birds. These birds are kept in small cages, and some groups of birds are crammed together in one cage—which can make it really noisy and it’s unfortunate that we don’t get to see them spreading their vivid feathers and taking to the sky (or well, the other end of the cage even). Cockatoos and macaw parrots are often chained to rods (no cages), so you can get a closer look at them.
Located in the northwestern side of New Territories, close to the Chinese border, lies Ha Pak Nai. It is a wetland area with a humble beach and a mudflat, and is rich in biodiversity—rare species can be found offshore. Interestingly, you are likely to find oyster shells scattered across the mudflats; the reason being that the area used to be an oyster bed.
Naturally, mangroves attract different species of birds—here it’s easy to spot Eurasian whimbrels, oystercatchers, and grey plovers wandering by the sea. Quite a handful of crab species inhabit the mudflats, but amongst others, the horseshoe crab is more sought-after given its medicinal properties; it is said that copper in their blood can be used to detect bacteria. These stingray-looking fellas are also referred to as “living fossils,” as their existence dates back to 450 million years!
Tourists and locals alike flock to this mangrove to catch one of the most stunning sunsets Hong Kong has to offer. With rows of mountains behind you and the undisturbed sight of the day turning to dusk, it’s no surprise why folks love this local treasure!
Although Kowloon Park is right in the heart of Hong Kong, joining Tsim Sha Tsui to Jordan, most Hongkongers who know about this public park don’t often take the chance to venture in and see its fabulous animals for themselves. In fact, some people are quite unaware that there even are animals inside Kowloon Park (the whole park definitely is not served for the swimming pool).
Whether you enter from Austin Road or Haiphong Road, the entrances do not quite expose the animals inside. Farther inside the park, there are short stairs leading up to the aviary and there’s a circular path surrounding the cage with exotic birds. Some of the birds include the African grey parrot, red-tailed cockatoo, and rhinoceros hornbill.
Not too far from the aviary is the lake, which has a bridge in the middle, allowing you to have a closer look at the flamingos, coscoroba swans, and Hawaiian geese. There are two types of flamingos; the greater flamingo from Europe, Africa, and West Asia, and the lesser flamingo from parts of India and Africa. Side note: A group of flamingos are called a flamboyance—how charming is that?