The story starts with monkeys or else there won’t be a place called Monkey Hill in HK.
There are about 2,000 wild monkeys in HK of which about 1,700 call Monkey Hill their home nowadays.
There are about 30 different troops and the four most powerful of them all vie for the control of Golden Hill ( aka Kam Sham ) Road and the main visitor carpark area.
The four major players are known as Skull Head, Biggie, Thickie and Cleftie, of these I only really know Skull Head’s troop a bit better as his troop is often unavoidable on Golden Hill Road, the rest I got my information from the locals. Their abode is not fixed and they do roam in the mountains, sometimes to more remote places as well !
Monkeys have been seen playing here before ! That’s a good 8 km from monkey hill !
Skull Head’s Troop
This troop is the most powerful of all the troops there and is between 400 to 600 strong with members drawn from Mr Seven’s original troop as well as defectors from the other three main troops. I have to admit I could count probably about a 100 of them each time I see Skull Head loitering around, the rest probably would appear from hiding in the trees I guess if someone dumps a truck load of goodies on the road.
I used to think this was Mr Seven until a local told me he hadn’t been seen for years, presumeably dead. Anyway that’s what a loser looks like 🙁
This troop has at least 10 lesser ɑ males who do Skull Head’s bidding. I really don’t see him fight often but he is one with such an imposing statue that all others will quietly back off when they see him.
He is about 12 years old now and has sired many offspring. The highest ranking females in his troop are his wives ( I believe there are two and they are twins ! ) and an older female with ectrodactyly who could be a senior female defected from Cleftie’s troop.
Whenever you see a member of his troop along Golden Hill Road you know it would be difficult to see any other troops as they would all go into hiding.
I’ve never seen this troop properly which numbers about a hundred but I’m sure I must have stumbled upon its members unknowingly. Before Skull Head’s arrival to the scene this troop boast the beefiest α male hence its name. Apparently since Skull Head’s ascension this particular troop has retreated to the woods in the nearby Jubilee Reservoir ( Shing Mun ) area. They do wander back to Golden Hill Road to feed from time to time though.
It’s so named because it is headed by a rather friendly male who would let feeders pet him. Because of his mild temperament people think he’s rather thick. He apparently has lost his territory to Skull Head and has been pushed to operate mainly in Eagle’s Nest Hill area east of Golden Hill Country Park and his troop is known to wander downhill into nearby residential blocks in Tai Wai to raid for food unfortunately 🙁
His troop nowadays give his folks a bad name….
Monkeys raiding apartment blocks in Tai Wai
A dominant hereditary trait runs in the matrilineal line in this troop as all succeeding matriarchs have been noticed to have cleft hands ( echodactyly ) hence my nickname for this troop. They too have been pushed out by Skull Heads’s troop but they are luckier for they still retain control of the visitor car park area by Tai Po Road and I have to say they seem to be doing rather well there.
I think these females are related to this troop:)
The beautiful blond by the bus stop also belongs to this troop and as she has normal hands she can’t be very high-ranking in the troop !
She also belongs to Cleftie’s Troop 🙂
Other Lesser Cast
The rest are distributed into twenty odd smaller troops which number between a few ( yes , just a few !) to a few dozens.
The Ragtag Troop
This has to be the most pathetic group which originally counted on two individuals only – an overbearing matriarch and a rather lazy and beefy male known as Batman ( for his pointy high-set ears). They do have a few drifters who come to join them from time to time without much loyalty and certainly they don’t seem to be too willing to defend their leaders from other troops. Since last year this troop has taken Stumpy into its core leadership but he’s not actually very welcome for he’s probably related to the matriarch herself. Risk of inbreeding probably means Stumpy will eventually be ousted one day but as things go he’s still hanging around and to prove his worth he’a actually the one who does most of the fighting to defend their territory, however brief.
Because this troop isn’t a threat at all to anyone Skull Head’s troop seems to tolerate their hanging around and it’s quite amazing how sometimes one’d find the troika ( the matriarch, Batman and Stumpy ) along with a few haggard females waiting in the distance up the slope with Skull Head’s massive troop taking the road.
The drifter mum Lubby with her baby son Dubby seems to have now settled in with the Ragtag troop though I wish they hadn’t….
The Defaced Matriarch ( Löwina ) ’s troop
This was once a rather big troop and quite powerful too but they had been decimated by a combination of bad luck and indiscriminate human intervention.
Thinking about it I remember I used to run into them on my hiking trips there in the early days before I got interested into monkeys. Then came the animal abuse on the monkeys in 2011 when the once beautiful young strapping matriarch was attacked and became defaced in the incident. She and her troop seemed to have borne a big brunt from the abuses and has been weakened ever since. But then came the government sterilisation program and they seemed to have been targeted unfairly that left most of its females sterile and the final straw came when their head ɑ male was also nipped subsequently a year or so later. The defaced matriarch is one of the few odd females that are left fertile but it’s not going to reverse their fortune any more even if they are left to their own devices. The last baby born in that troop was back in 2014 I think their days are numbered.
Nowadays the defaced matriarch and her troop, about a dozen strong is so marginalised that they are only occasionally found in the grounds of the pavilion, away from most of the feeding.
A glimpse of them in this video…
The poor Valorie, a young female with leontiasis ossea who died last autumn was one of the very few fertile female left in this unfortunate troop.
This troop normally occupies the beginning of the uphill part of Golden Hill Road near the dam. It was originally named as the ” Little Prince’s troop ” as its star is the matriarch ( Nora )’s baby son, born last May ( 2016 ) and has been called affectionately the Little Prince ( now known as Vince ) as compared to other babies born to this troop in the same period he’s obviously been doted on by everyone there, including another powerful figure, the senior female Granny.
My first encounter with this troop
There are about 30 members in this lesser troop and they are very protective of their juveniles, especially Little Prince and it’s difficult to film him without running into difficulty with the matriarch and her rather fierce troop members.
As he’s been so pampered and gotten to share more food than even other adults are allowed to he has become officially the chubbiest baby of Monkey Hill, and I bet he’s like a foul-mouthed Eric Cartman in life as well 🙂
The Little Devil’s Troop
I know even less about this troop but they do have a star as well – the rather devilish-looking baby with his fearsome matriarch mum. Their troop is usually found if at all just beyond the Pavilion at the top of Golden Hill Road. I suspect they actually wander here from the woods in Jubilee Reservoir a kilometre or so north.
My very first encounter with Lil Devil
I have yet to be certain who the α male is in this troop but their matriarchs are unmistakable as there are two and they are likely to be twins and Little Devil like his counterpart, the Little Prince is also very pampered but as they are way out from most of the feeding they do look rather undernourished most of the time.
This just tells you how vital Golden Hill Road which brings lots of visitors and goodies to the monkeys living around the area is.
By pure chance this is the troop I film most frequently as the thought of following a monkey baby stemmed from this troop when I first met baby Baty there last May. Led by a rather young alpha male named Cocky and an older female known as Bossy this troop and particularly its babies are often featured in my videos. Numbering around 40 to 50 member strong Bossy’s troop could bully other smaller troops and it would often sneak in to fill any vacant slot along Golden Hill Road when Skull Head’s troop isn’t looking.
To learn more of this troop and its babies , please follow this link 🙂