To celebrate World Wildlife Day, join us in exploring Macao’s breathtaking biodiversity, from the endangered Chinese white dolphin to freshwater crabs you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Every year on March 3, World Wildlife Day pays tribute to the inspiring wild flora and fauna that exist on our planet, while raising awareness of the urgent need for better conservation practices.
In celebration of World Wildlife Day 2022, we’re exploring Macao’s hilly terrain, mangrove swamps and sandy beaches to discover the city’s hidden biodiversity.
From the recently discovered freshwater crab endemic to the macaw, to the increasingly rare Chinese white dolphin, here are some of the most magnificent species of wildlife you’ll find in your own backyard.
Gardens are central to nature and wildlife in Macau. These gardens contain many herbs and plants that highlight the long association of people in this part of the world with natural medicine.
Despite the gardens, Macau is not very rich in flora due to increasing urbanization. This urbanization means that the animal life is not very diverse and consists mainly of birds, lizards, snakes, some wild cats and the waters around Macau are home to crocodiles.
Macau Nanhai Crab
On the slopes of Cologne exists this rare freshwater crab, a species native to Macao. Officially known as Nanhaipotamon macau , the palm-sized crustacean was discovered in 2018 by local wildlife researchers from the Municipal Affairs Bureau, who collected the species it inhabits from the island’s clean, unpolluted streams.
The colon hill crab is closely related to other land crabs found in neighboring regions such as Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Fujian, and is a nocturnal predator, feeding on small shrimp, insects and small crabs under the cover of darkness.
There are approximately 300 of these hill dwellers, so if you find one, take extra care to stay out of its way and leave it undisturbed.
As the official mascot of the Macao Government Tourism Office, the black-faced spoonbill ( Platalea minor ) is a perennial symbol of the city and a magnificent sight to behold.
This distinctive waterfowl – named for its long, spoon-shaped beak – makes its way through East Asia every year in late October, migrating from its breeding grounds on the Korean Peninsula and the Chinese coast to its wintering grounds in Macau, Japan.
Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Interestingly, due to the lack of human population, the largest and most successful breeding grounds for the black-faced spoonbill are in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.
In Macao, they usually stay in the Cotai Ecological Protection Zone, a protected wetland, for six months before flying north.
Unfortunately, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the black-faced spoonbill is currently listed as an endangered species.
Conservation efforts are underway to revive the population, but a recent study found that their numbers in Macao have dropped from 53 in 2019 to 40 in 2020, blamed on ongoing construction near a bird sanctuary.
Abundant in the tidal mudflats and mangrove ecosystems of Macao, mudskippers are amphibious fish that can breathe air and live on land, giving new meaning to the phrase “fish out of water”!
Of the three mudskipper species found in Macao, the blue-spotted mudskipper ( Boleophthalmus pectinirostris ) is the largest, reaching a length of about 20 centimeters as an adult.
With large, bulging eyes and diagonal rows of blue spots on its sides and cheeks, this conspicuous fish is also highly territorial. They are seen fighting with rival males by extending their dorsal fins and thrusting their mouths widely towards each other.
Giant Golden Orb Weaver
With their impressive leg span (about 15 cm) and meter-wide web, giant golden orb weavers ( Nephila phillips ) can be intimidating at first sight.
Fortunately, these spiders won’t bother you, preferring to remain motionless as they wait for the tiny insects to enter their trap.
If you’re not easily intimidated, take a look the next time you hit Cologne’s hiking trails; You may find some of these yellow beauties waiting above you. These raven arachnoids also feed on their webs daily, so they can use the protein in the silk.
These magnificent migratory birds visit Macao in winter, when you can find them inhabiting the city’s various wetlands, riverbanks, mud flats and mangrove forests.
About one meter tall, this statuesque wading bird is an incredible predator, with a dagger-like bill that is ideal for catching fish, frogs and large insects.
Gray herons ( Ardea cinerea ) can live up to 20 years, and despite being shorebirds, they are also known to forage away from water – they have even been found in deserts on occasion!
Chinese White Dolphin
Also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis ), this sweet, friendly mammal is found in the coastal waters of East and Southeast Asia.
Despite their name, Chinese white dolphins are gray when young, before their skin fades to white or pink as they mature. They are occasionally seen off the Macao coast, where they swim and prey among pods of at least four dolphins.
Unfortunately, this protected species is under tremendous pressure; Their numbers in the Pearl River estuary have been steadily declining due to factors such as construction, rehabilitation work and high-speed ferries in their natural habitat.
It is unclear how many Chinese white dolphins currently exist in Macao’s coastal waters, but a 2021 report estimated that only 37 Chinese white dolphins remain in Hong Kong waters. Throughout the Pearl River Estuary, wildlife experts estimate there are about 2,500 dolphins.