Most of my videos of monkeys of Monkey Hill in the early years were casually shot – I didn’t follow any particular individuals nor did I try to recognise any of them, I just filmed whatever came to me on my hikes. The only exception was Stumpy as he was what started me to take videos of monkeys more consistently and he has been my interest on and off since the fall of 2011 when I met him for the very first time.
The Story of Stumpy
I’ve never been a regular contributor on Youtube until I started to follow Baty and other babies in June 2016. It just happened on the spur of the moment as a thought came to me that maybe it’d be possible to follow a baby or two ( and the list subsequently grew but thank god the monkeys in Monkey Hill were never as prolific or I’d have to go full-time ). The fact is there were at least a few long lulls in my output – I was away for a whole year in 2012 and wasn’t back in HK until March 2013 and that year I only went back on a few occasions to make sure Stumpy was well. 2014 I was into rock climbing and I only visited Monkey Hill rarely. June 2015 saw my return to hiking past that area and I began to publish at a more regular interval – a mishmash of some old clips as well as more contemporary ones then.
This baby with otapostasis has gotten me into this mess >:(
As I could only have Wednesday night and Sunday each week to spend time on my footage my output is rather small and slow compared to many others and if I happen to visit the place twice a week in a row for several weeks then I become really behind with my schedule. At present it’s 8 weeks behind I’m afraid 🙁
As I work through my footage I begin to get a clearer picture of their society, how they interact and relate. Sometimes I’d connect the dots together with clues from footage I shot a good few years earlier and offer a possible explanation. Most of my knowledge of each individual is really a work of intelligent guess based on my observation but as I only see a tiny fraction of their life each week I may err and it has already happened quite a few times 🙁
I can’t control what comes to me nor do I want to engineer a situation to spice and sex things up. I treat my videos as a faithful representation of what happen on my hikes, they are like a hiking-logue to me in essence.
Hong Kong is blessed to have such a vast countryside as part of the city. It’s teeming with wildlife and for most Hongkongers nature is no more than a stone’s throw away. You’d have thought that they should have a better knowledge of their home turf but in actual fact few express any interest outside of work and for many of them the countryside is just a place to have fun – sometimes at the expense of the wildlife there 🙁
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 thislink 🙂
Over sixty 360° photos taken over a span of 2 years and assembled painstakingly to form this immersive tour, you will be shrunken to their size and see their world the way they do. Some of the cast you probably have met them on my channels and now you’d almost see them in person. Take a break and teleport yourself to Monkey Hill in Hong Kong 🙂
In case you want to check out your bearing relative to the major landmarks of HK please watch the first 3 minutes or so of this video about our babies from 2016 !
Get to know some of our cast in this video as well !
And if you have some time to spare, don’t forget to visit another tour of mine -” Hong Kong form 0 m to 554 m a.s.l. ” as this will give you a better insight into the city our gang calls home 🙂
Getting to Golden Hill ( Kam Shan ) Country Park is easy for most people – just hop on bus 72 or 81 or drive right through the country park in the comfort of your own car along Golden Hill Road to see the mischievous monkeys that make the place synonymous with them amongst most residents of Hong Kong.
Travelling to Monkey Hill like a local on bus 81 for less than 1 USD each way !
Golden Hill road also doubles as part of a section of a long hiking trail, stage 6 of MacLehose Trail named after one beloved former Governor of Hong Kong. This popular trail, about 100km long traverses Kowloon from east to west mostly following the main mountain ridge on Kowloon Peninsular. It is against such fact that I came to know this road and later this place when I began to call Hong Kong home in 2009.
As a matter of fact I tried to ignore our primate kin which share almost 94% of our DNA at first as I always and still think the best way for any wildlife’s conservation is to leave them well alone so as not to draw human attention to them.
However it then came the exception when I saw what human beings were capable of a few years back to inflict on these little critters.
I still remember vividly that it was a cool morning one day in November in 2011 as I hiked from stage 7 to stage 6 on the Maclehose Trail when I first bumped into a little macaque, no bigger than a small puppy with its right forelimb – if you could still call it as it’s avulsed from the shoulder and hanging limply and awkwardly down with most of the forearm element missing, leaving a red and angry open wound at its end emitting a low shrill cry, all alone by the kerb halfway along Golden Hill road.
A poor maimed macaque alone by the kerb 🙁
I guessed it was less than a year old then and normally an infant should be accompanied by its mother and so I was really curious and at the same time worried about it. Clearly at this young tender age it would still rely on its mother for milk and on its own in this shape it wouldn’t be able to forage anything meaningful to survive. There’s still a lot of skills it had yet to learn from its mother.
I waited at some distance away so as not to disturb the baby and hoping that its mother would somehow turn up to claim the baby miraculously.
As it began to pick off grit and other dirt from the wound I was really surprised how neat the wound appeared, in fact it’s like an amputation and I began to suspect it was the work of a trap – probably a steel-jaw type – which I later learnt from the local press that such devices were being discovered at a few other country parks at an alarming frequency. As most wildlife ( except wild boars ) is protected by law ( a legacy of its British past ) people suspected they were laid down illegally by smugglers coming from China across the border as game is highly sought for and valued medicinally in China so much so that most forms of wildlife are now extinct there. In Hong Kong however wild mammals like the Red Muntjac ( a kind of dwarfed musk deer ), pangolins, porcupines, civets, leopard cats, bats and wild boars are abundant and still roam free in large swathes of protected countryside that cover almost three quarters of all land area of Hong Kong, another legacy of its British past.
To make matters worst these mainlanders ( as opposed to Hongkongers ) seem to have de facto impunity under the new administration of Hong Kong as the authority would often not react or just let them off easily in petty crimes or even serious misdemeanours. No wonder these unscrupulous traders whether in animal or rare wood trade would come to Hong Kong to make quick money – a case in point is the protected Buddhist Pine ( Podocarpus macrophyllus ), an evergreen that is highly valued in China for its good Fengshui. Another is agarwood which fetches high price in the market for its aromatic resin. These two have almost all been cut down now by smuggling gangs coming from mainland China at night. Now they have turned their attention to less valuable but still highly profitable game trade.
My hope however grew thinner at each minute passed as the baby’s shrill became more desperate. It’s jittery and nervous but just when I was wondering whether I should call the appropriate authority for help ( whether it would response is another matter as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, SPCA, the R which stands for Royal had been dropped since the handover in 1997 to China is well-known for putting animals down only. Furthermore to catch an agile animal like a monkey on its home turf one would require more than just a few personnel, besides by the time they appear the animal would have been long gone into the woods ) an older female, probably its sister came to his side to comfort it. The maimed little critter huddled close and appeared to be pacified somewhat. No sooner had this happened an entire troop of monkeys appeared around this stretch of the road and the moment I tried to get closer to the maimed monkey a few became aggressive towards me. I knew then the little baby at least wasn’t abandoned by its troop.
At last someone came to his aid 🙂
But still there was no sign of the whereabouts of its mother. I suspected whatever was the cause of this little baby’s injury also claimed the life of its mother : if it was a steel-jaw trap the stronger bone of an adult meant that it was still immobilised by the trap and probably had died from a combination of both exhaustion and exsanguination. The small and brittle bone of a baby resulted in an instant amputation and avulsion of what’s remaining. Whether it had scurried away in the subsequent confusion and pain or was simply ignored and pried away by the game smuggler as it still clung to its mother with its only hand left is really anybody’s guess.
The following weekend I came again specifically for the little critter – and there it was still in good health. The wound was still red and raw but at least it hadn’t deteriorated. As it climbed and jumped from tree to tree I knew the injury hadn’t incapacitated it – it’s still as playful and energetic as most other babies, a testament to our primate kin’s amazing tolerance and ability to survive. I also noticed it was receiving many treats from passers-by so obviously many kind-hearted locals were taking mercy on it. Given it was still in a troop and all the protection that came with it as long as the wound healed properly without complications this little baby should survive.
He has since been known as ” Stumpy ” for those who have been following his progress on youtube.
Photos of Stumpy just before I left HK for one whole year in 2012
As I hiked along the road and really started to see these critters properly I became horrified at the sights of many injuries these poor animals suffered : some were missing an arm, others had their legs chopped off. A few babies were blinded, others were horribly disfigured – to the lay person they might think these were natural injuries but to the trained eyes, these were the result of machetes and even corrosive agents. Clearly there was an evil at work for quite a while here besides illegal poachers – an animal abuser. Judging from the injuries the perpetrator of such heinous crime had taken advantage of these poor animals’ trust on us so as to get close enough to commit such atrocities.
Victims of animal abuse 🙁
For that this individual is even worst than the illegal poachers for he simply tortures and kills just for the pleasure and fun of such act. Clearly he’s not content with just simply drawing blood and was hell-bent on inflicting as much pain on the animals as possible hence he improvised with corrosive agents – which I suspected was some kind of chemical drain cleaners.
How could anyone hurt these animals who are one of our closest kin in nature ?
Why the hate ?
I took many pictures of such instances of abuses and asked my local hiking buddy to write to the press and he duly did. It didn’t at first draw a lot of attention but soon word began to spread as people were disgusted by such cruelties. A few newspapers also picked up on the story as well as stashes of machetes, half-empty bottles of corrosives began to be found in various spots amongst the thick undergrowth inside the park. As more instances of abuses began to surface a demonstration against animal cruelties was called for as the public demanded actions from the government. That same year 2012 while I was away from Hong Kong news had reached me that by early summer enough momentum had been gained so much so that the administration could no longer pay a lip service to the demands of many animal lovers of the city and began to act, much like any bureaucrat – comically and ruefully inadequate by simply putting up giant banners inside the country park reminding people NOT TO HURT MONKEYS and TO REPORT ON SUCH INSTANCES and that FEEDING MONKEYS IS ILLEGAl and CARRIES A FINE OF AROUND 2,000 USD PER OFFENCE, much to the chagrin of all those concerned in the cause as the original demand to set up a dedicated squad to deal with animal abuses and to catch those responsible seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and continues to remain so till these days err …. on the laughable grounds of inadequate resources ( despite Hong Kong having the second highest ratio of police officer to citizen ratio in the world since the handover to China – not that the crime scene has deteriorated significantly since but that the alienating administration popped up only by China is feeling increasingly edgy as more people are displeased and disenfranchised by the political setup in Hong Kong, a case in point is the largely peaceful ” Umbrella Revolution ” in 2014 which saw tens of thousands of people, mostly students and young people who took to the street to demand China to stick to its original promise to grant people in Hong Kong at least UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. After nearly 3 months of street occupations, the movement lost focus and petered out and everything remains status quo if not worsened since ).
People taking to the street in Central, HK in support of the ” Umbrella Revolution
Fortunately the exposure seemed to have stopped any further spate of abuses by the middle of 2012. The perpetrator(s) of such heinous crime though is still at large.
We parted in the evolution tree about 30 million years ago but they are still uncannily similar to us, like a smaller spitting image only cuter.
However there is no stopping to poachers and smugglers coming to Hong kong at night as the border is increasingly porous nowadays and the administration has no intent to patrol it like it was then under the British. After all Hong Kong is now part of China and the administration is only doing its bidding. And the police force is increasingly being used to stifle oppositions only, much like its counterpart in China.
I fear for all the wildlife in Hong Kong : not only are they being hunted their habitat will shrink as the administration is increasingly clear with its intent to cede piecemeal the once protected countryside to urban development as the city swells with immigrants from China – indeed some 2 million New Hongkongers have settled down legally as China continues with its policy to dilute the indigenous population of Hong Kong so much so to the extent that nowadays almost every one in three Hongkongers belongs to this new category – your average Mandarin-speaking and brain-washed mainlander Chinese, hostile to many western values and not very much law – abiding and worst still all bigot-minded. I’m sure you must have met one in your own country ! To make matter worst in this small city of 7 million it has to cater to the various needs of mainlander Chinese who swarm this overcrowded city by tens of thousands everyday ( in total about 45 million mainlander Chinese visitors per year ) as some vote with their money and feet on Chinese merchandise, others just want to take advantage of various legal loopholes to make a quick buck.
Once “ mainlandization “ of Hong Kong is complete which at this rate is not far off in the future it will spell the end of Hong Kong as we have come to know it, much like what’s happening in Tibet.