• Outdoor Activities

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens – How Nature was “Created” in Hong Kong

April 9, 2020

Name(English): The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Name(Chinese): 香港動植物公園
Category: Culture and History
Phone Number: +852 25300154
Address(English): Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong
Address(Chinese): 中環雅賓利道
Address Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/zwYneKgn83Aa9mXm7
Address longitude and latitude: 22.27699758370016, 114.15603249950499
Nearest MTR Station: Central Station Exit K
Nearest MTR Station Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/hob1sgeky9MwRg579
Nearest MTR Station longitude and latitude: 22.281189989768627, 114.15951770994936
How far from the nearest MTR Station: 15 min uphill from Central Station Exit K
Opening Hours:
MON 05:00 – 22:00
TUE 05:00 – 22:00
WED 05:00 – 22:00
THU 05:00 – 22:00
FRI 05:00 – 22:00
SAT 05:00 – 22:00
SUN 05:00 – 22:00
Recommended Time to Visit: 09:00-16:30
Accessibility Note: need to walk up staircases

Beyond the skyscrapers along the Victoria Harbour, we see layers of mountains covered by trees and greens. However, it was a very different view 200 years ago when the British first arrived in Hong Kong.  “There is only one spot that has a tree on it. It is called Happy Valley and is certainly a pretty spot. The rest of the island is one barren rock and perfectly devoid of vegetation” wrote a British army lieutenant surveying the island in 1842.

Entrance
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

The British ruling brought not only urban development to Hong Kong, but also the nature and culture. The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is the first and oldest park in the territory opened to the public in 1864. It was used to house an assemblage of native plants for collection and research. Since 1876, the Gardens started to build its zoological collection comprising birds and mammals.

Some garden at 1864…

To us, the most important collection in the early days was Bauhinia x Blakeana, the flower and emblem of Hong Kong, which can now be seen easily around parks, gardens and roadside. The tree was first discovered by a french catholic missionary in Pok Fu Lam (薄扶林) in late 19th centuries. It was the first of its kind in the world when discovered. A recent DNA research revealed that the trees around the city are in fact clones of the original at Pok Fu Lam 120 years ago! The flower usually bloom in winter around early to mid December, it would be quite hard for someone to tell if you are not into gardening.

Bauhinia – A flower unique to Hong Kong
The flower on Hong Kong flag is an impression of Bauhinia

Other than strolling along the heritage trail and savour the stories, the Gardens is also a good place to spend the afternoon with your kids. It houses around 50 species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Here are some not to be missed,

Black-faced spoonbill
  • Within the aviary, you should look for the black-faced spoonbill, an endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. 20% of its global population can be found wintering in Hong Kong. This vulnerable one was brought to the Gardens in 2018 after it was rescued.
  • In the mammal enclosure, after checking out various types of primates, you will come to encounter two meerkats, which were brought to the Gardens in 2016.
  • While at the education and exhibition center, you will meet Siu Fa (little flower), the taxidermy specimen of a female Jaguar, who grew up with a few generations (20 years!) of Hong Kong people before passing away in 2008.
  • For Panda and aquarium, you will need to go to the Ocean Park.
While the Gardens brings us joy, we should always question ourselves whether it is morally right to keep these living companions in cages.

Some hundred and seventy years later, Hong Kong is no longer a barren rock but a metropolis with more than 75% of the land are undeveloped green zones. Perhaps this is a mission accomplished?

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Michael Tsang

Founder of Hong Kong Free Tours. Used to work in finance for 12 years as an actuary and quit his job to chase his passion.

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