Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) Biology research group has described a new species of gecko in Hong Kong, and named it Hong Kong Tree Gecko (scientific name Hemiphyllodactylus hongkongensis). The species description made by a group led by Dr Sung Yik-hei, Lecturer of the Department of Biology of HKBU was published in Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific journal on the study of taxonomy.
Dr Sung said: “The discovery of this new vertebrate species highlights the rich biodiversity in Hong Kong. We knew that this species has existed in Hong Kong for a long time, however we were not certain about its identity. Eventually, we found that it is a species new to science. This represents the eighth species of gecko and the only species of tree gecko in Hong Kong. Reaching up to eight centimetres in length, it is the smallest gecko species in Hong Kong.”
“Identification of geckos is difficult, even for experts. Apart from its small body size, Hong Kong Tree Gecko can be distinguished from other geckos by its divided lamellae on fingers and toes, and clawless thumb. So far as we know, this is an endemic species which only appears in Hong Kong. Their narrow distribution, in areas such as Hong Kong Island, Po Toi and Shek Kwu Chau, suggests that it is probably a threatened species. More research on its population status and ecology is needed.” he said.
Dr Sung said that most populations of Hemiphyllodactylus hongkongensis on Hong Kong Island occur within Country Parks. Some populations dwell at the edge of the Country Parks, reiterating that Country Parks, including interior and edge, are essential for biodiversity conservation in Hong Kong. Populations on the other islands are in unprotected areas. “Therefore, we encourage reinforcing the protection, for example designating Po Toi as a Site of Special Scientific Interest or Country Park,” Dr Sung suggested.