7 Exotic Critters You Never Knew Lived In Shanghai
Exotic animals in Shanghai aren't limited to the ones served in restaurants. Here are seven unlikely creatures that call this labyrinth of concrete, steel and airpocalyptic pollution home.
You drunkenly stumble out of a Dagu Lu bar at 3AM to see a tannish brown shape bolt across your path. It moves so fast it could be a figment of your tequila-tainted imagination, or a cat. Enter the Siberian weasel, a medium-sized weasel common throughout Russia and East Asia.
Prized for its rat-catching prowess, this verminator is utilized by authorities who capture it and release it in infested areas, where it tirelessly pursues its quarry though markets and homes alike like a heat-seeking torpedo with teeth.
Great, so the rat problem gets handled but now we have the Ivan Drago of weasels terrorizing the city, right? Fortunately, the critter doesn't pose a threat to people, according to the Shanghai Center for Disease Control. Small pets and domestic fowl, on the other hand, aren't so lucky. Siberian weasels are most commonly sighted around parks or other wooded areas.
While perusing Pudong's periphery at dawn or dusk, you might hear a low "oo-uk ...ooo-uk" call emanating from the woods. That's the closest you'll likely get to encountering the Brown Hawk-Owl, a nocturnal raptor found throughout South Asia. Named for its hawk-like tail and lack of a facial disc, this nightflyer preys on insects, frogs, small birds, and mice that inhabit Shanghai's fringes.
Seasoned birders can usually identify it by the small birds that harangue it while it's roosting. Also be on the lookout for grass owls, which are often rescued from Beijing's illegal pet trade and released in Shanghai preserves. Squat and big-headed, they evoke surprised Russian dolls. Keep your distance to avoid molesting these hooters (sorry).
Asian Longhorned Beetle
Okay, not the most exotic critter, but considering Shanghai's smog we thought the bug scene consisted of a cockroach in a Hazmat suit. And this inch-long insect is damn cool looking with its white spots and antennae that look like they get great cell reception.
The longhorn is native to Asia, but also inhabits the West, where it's wood-boring larvae are considered a scourge. You see adults clinging to trees at night during summer and early fall. Don't pick them up; that mouth is like a miniature woodchipper.
While frogs inhabit infest Shanghai waterways like it's a belated plague of Egypt, toads are harder to spot. These pebble-skinned amphibians are more common in outlying watertowns like Zhujiajiao where they serve them smoked in a dish called xūn lā sī (薰拉丝). We advise against following suit lest you experience an inadvertent DMT trip or end up paralyzed from the ears down.
Shanghai doesn't seem to house many pigeons compared to other metropoli -- perhaps because they're on the menu here. You do see these guys pecking around parks, however. Tan-gray with a spotted black collar (hence the name), the Spotted dove looks like a regular dove wearing a dog collar. You often hear their mournful coo around dawn.
Another inhabitant of the Shanghai boonies, this shaggy, Terrier-sized omnivore is more closely related to dogs than to its masked doppelganger. It's the only canine besides the gray fox that regularly climbs trees. These guys are found in the Pudong, Fengxian, and Jiading districts. Unfortunately, the fur trade has impacted their numbers so it's unlikely you'll see one.
No this is not some sort of Jackalope-like hoax where someone taxidermed a pig snout onto a badger. This porcine-looking beast is a real creature that lives throughout China and Southeast Asia. Around 60-70 cm-long with a long white tail and black racing stripes on its head, the hog badger feeds on roots, fruits and small mammals. You can see these mustelids shambling about where city meets grassland. But you probably won't as rampant hunting has put them on the threatened species list.