HK's Top 10... Deadliest creatures
As opposed to the black and yellow stripes of banded krait, this snake features thinner black and white banding and is considerably more dangerous, being both more aggressive and more venomous. Known as a shy snake, these nocturnal reptiles feed on rodents and linger around watering holes and only bite in defence or when provoked. Be warned, bites are often painless but if left untreated can kill, and they have taken several humans in Hong Kong.
Our famous friend the cobra is the most prevalent snake in China. You find them hanging around open woodlands and grasslands so if you are roaming around the forest late at night, keep your eyes peeled. Known for their distinctive hood and method of attack, they only strike when threatened and although not a spitting cobra, some can eject venom up to two metres. Bites can lead to serious discomfort and even necrosis (cell damage) but anti-venom is plentiful and the condition is rarely fatal.
Between four and five feet long, sea snakes usually live in shallow waters feeding on fish, fish eggs and eels. Since they evolved from land snakes, they don’t have gills and therefore need to come to the surface to breathe air. One large left lung, which stretches the length of their body, allows them to stay underwater for hours. Sea snakes are highly venomous and, if bitten, the results can be fatal. However, they rarely bite, even when provoked.
The most beautiful but most dangerous of all, the blue-ringed octopus can be found lurking in the seas of Hong Kong. Although there are no reports of attacks on humans, if you were to cross paths with this deadly creature, you wouldn’t live to tell the tale. Their salivary glands are full of colonies of bacteria, which produce tetrodotoxin capable of paralysing a full-grown man in an instant, with there being no known antidote either.
Much like the blue-ringed octopus, the pufferfish also contains tetrodotoxin. In many parts of Asia, the fish is considered a delicacy but when cooked incorrectly it can be fatal. In fact, this chemical is actually 100 times more potent than cyanide. So next time you pick fugu on the menu, you better make sure the chef is up to cooking it!
The Asian giant hornet has a 6mm stinger that carries venom capable of killing. For those with allergies, the venom can trigger an anaphylactic reaction causing cardiac arrest. As they’re a similar size to the human thumb you can’t really miss them but beware, the more you run the more they chase you!
Summer has arrived but don’t be too hasty to strip off and jump into the sea, for this is also the season of the lion’s mane jellyfish. They have eight bunches of 70 to 120 stinging tentacles that can trail up to 10m. Even worse, the tentacles can still sting when they break off; it’s the gift that just keeps giving. The sting can be painful but is rarely fatal.
Eight inches long and a fast mover, the giant centipede is the king of creepers. They’re not too common in the city but head to some of the rural areas of Hong Kong and you might well come across them. Their front legs double up as sharp fangs which can inject venom. Bites are rarely fatal but, if you are allergic, you may well have to go to hospital.
You don’t usually think of the toad as Hong Kong’s deadliest animal. However, of all the amphibians, the Asian common toad poses the greatest threat. Glands tucked behind their ear are full of a milky poison to discourage predators. Luckily they move slowly and are usually found in slow-flowing rivers, so they’re not a high risk to humans. Just don’t come face to face with one.
Taking an island trip this weekend? Lamma and Lantau are home to the golden orb-weaver spider. You are unlikely to miss these spiders because of their impressive webs, which can span up to 20cm. These black and white crawlers are the oldest surviving species of spiders dating back 165 million years and whilst their sting is potent, it is not lethal. Mary Hanbury