The fauna of Hong Kong 1841-1942

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 17:45

I am researching into the fauna of Hong Kong between 1841 and 1942  for a book I am writing with Jon Downes of the Centre for Fortean Zoology U.K. We both lived in Hong Kong from the 1960s to the 1980s. If any Gwulo member has any memories of wildlife in Hong Kong during this time I would be very interested in hearing from you. I am particulary interested in information about tigers,leopards,wolves (I have reports of wolves from the time the Kowloon-Canton railway was being built), and anything unusual or possibly unknown to science. I am interested in folklore accounts and anything really from 1841-1942.

I have reports from old issues of the South China Morning Post of crocodiles in 1910. I am familiar with the works of Herklotts and Romer and the Hong Kong Naturalist but I am looking for anything rarer and also any info on the Stanley Prison Camp Tiger that may not be well publicized.

Thanks very much for any help.

Richard Muirhead

There is a mounted tiger head at the Police Museum. The tiger was killed in Leung Yeuk Tau (a Tang clan walled village settlement near to Fanling) sometime in the early 20th century.

Is this the kind of info you are after?


It is some time now but the skin of the Stanley tiger used to be hanging in the Tin Hau Temple by the promenade.

The only other tiger that I know of was shot in 1915 by Donald Burlingham in the Fanling-Sheung Shui area. The head of the tiger is mounted in the Police Museum in Coombe Road. Cheers

1915 Dead Tiger

1915 Dead Tiger


Submitted by on
Mon, 09/07/2009 - 11:18

Hi Richard,

I know of a book in Chinese which consists of short essays on the natural history of Hong Kong.  I read it quite some time ago so I do not remember specifically whether it contains anything pre-war, but the first edition of this book was published in 1958.

The author, the late Mr. YIP Ling Fung (or YE Lingfeng in Mandarin) is a famous writer, historian, newspaper editor and book collector.  He used a phonetically similar penname Yip Lam Fung (or YE Linfeng in Mandarin) in this book.

Hope this helps.



The Stanley Prison Camp group have several more threads about this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

In one of them, Tony Banham answers the question I'd been wondering about: What was a Tiger doing on Hong Kong island?

When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, a Philippines-based travelling circus was visiting and got trapped. I have been racking my brain trying to think where I read the details (some 20 years ago), but have so far failed. It may have been a throw-away comment in Lindsay, Carew, or Luff. I'll try to find it, as I suspect this was the most likely source of said feline.

This seems the right thread to start the year...

With the source of the wartime tiger made clear, I wondered if the New Territories tiger from 1915 was also an import, or a native wild tiger.

Then this article on Sunday introduced the 'South China Tiger', now a critically enfangered species. A web search found a Wikipedia article on these tigers which says that 'until the beginning of the 20th century, the South China tiger was distributed in southern China and Hong Kong'.

So yes, there's a good chance the 1915 tiger was a native. Thankfully, not something we have to worry about today on hikes in the New Territories!

Apparently, it occurred in the garden of Tao Fung Shan in Shatin. Its founder, Karl Ludvig Reichelt - who died the following year - was apparently looking out of his window and saw the tiger prowling around his garden but had gone when he went for a careful closer look.

Hello David.

Is there any truth in the rumour(much passed around when I was a kid) that a Japanese patrol boat shot a tiger swimming across the harbour during the occupation.

I recall vividly being baled up by avery grumpy lynx type cat in the goldenhill shingmun area(pointy ears bob tailed & spotted coat very large)Can any one throw some light on what the cat was.


Gary  Liddell

Greetings David.

I am sure there was a story about the "swimming tiger" in the SCMP in the early sixties unless my source was some gin sodden old colonial at the KBGC.

The Filipino circus has some merit but then havent had any reports of rampaging elephants in down town central.I am srarting to have vision oof Benny the Bengal tiger in the peak hour queue at the star ferry trying to get accross to the island  rampaging elephants in downtown central rampaging elephants in dontown centrl

Good Morning Jill

Thats definately the fellow.Fom memory the year was 1961 & I was walking along the golden hill road from the direction of Tai Po road along side the resrvoir when he came out of the bush about 20 feet in front of me stopped looked at me & started hissing & spitting.A fine carry on .Needless to say I was quite put off with all the carry on.

Finaly he went about his business leaving me in quite astate.

I know according to your map these grmpy critters arent supposed to be in Hong Kong but there you have it.

Thank you so much for enlightening me.

Kind regards

Gary Liddell

Dear Gary

I have only just noticed your report of an Eurasian lynx in Hong Kong.Have you heard any more reports of them since you first mentioned it in Gwulo?

Also, I am trying to trace a photo of a dead dugong/manatee in Hong Kong harbour in 1940 or 1941 I read about somewhere.Do you know anything about that?


Hello David

I have only come across one Lynx in all the hill walks I done over the last 50 years

Interestingly if check out a map of the Wong Nei Chong gap area on the island there is a feature called Lynx hill in the Blacks link area near Mt Nicholson.The origin of the name would be worth checking out

Good luck with your research

All the best


Hello again David

Regarding the Dugong I live on the Gold coast in Queensland Australia & Dugongs are native to the waters of the barrier reef further north.l must admit to not having heard of them as far north as Hong Kong

I will be in Hong Kong in November for a couple of weeks snooping around the old WW2 battle sites & will keep a keen eye out for any furry creatures



Good evening Richard

Back in the 50s& 60s there was a section in theSCMP called "Letters To The Editor"

A group of bird watchers were regular contributors upstaging each other every week with sightings of rare species particularly of migrating birds from northern China & Siberia. Stone cutters island was a favoured stop off point for many migrating birds as well as being the natural habitat of many endangered reptiles & mammals.You may be able to track down back copies of the SCMP & check it out

Also at that time there were reported sightings by credible sources of a large black cat believed to be a Panther in the new territories

I hope this may be of some help


Hello David

The Panther story is certainly interesting & definately credibleas much(as you would allready know) there are 30 sub species whose habitat ranges from tropical/sub deciduous forrests /marsh/swampland & grasslands & these species are found on 3 continents(Africa/America& ASIA)

I know the NT sighting was reported in the SCMP in the 60s



Hello Richard

Sadly the best I can come up with some where between Xmas 1959 & early 1962.I know this in vague to say the least.I was wondering if there was a way to access SCMP papers from that period and punch in key words & see what we come up with.David may have some ideas about this method

I will see what I can do myself(it would certainly  make other info I am looking for a lot easier

cheers Gary Liddell

Hi Gary

As far as I know the SCMP is not one of the English language newspapers on the main HK Library Multimedia database though other newspapers are eg The China Mail. I have found contacting the library itself by e-mail useful in the may also be useful to look at the other newspapers using Advanced Search. I am suprised the SCMP isn`t yet available online yet,perhaps David knows about this?

cheers Richard

I guess the SCMP isn't available to read online because of some copyright limitations, but I'm not sure. The library says they have microfilm copies available for browsing through. Also the online copies of the China Mail run up til 1961, so you might be lucky enough to get a mention there, see

Regards, David

An HKFP Article quotes an internment camp diary.

Nearly 30 years later, Geoffrey Charles Emerson documented his own experience with a wild tiger in Hong Kong. A former history and English teacher, Chaucer was interned at the Stanley Internment Camp by Japanese forces during World War II. Guards spotted and killed a male tiger roaming around the encampment.

According to Emerson’s account in his book Hong Kong Internment, 1942-1945: Life in the Japanese Civilian Camp at Stanley, the tiger was stuffed and put on exhibition in the city while officials of the Hong Kong Race Club were given the privilege of feasting on the tiger meat.

“For weeks there had been rumours in the camp that a tiger was roaming around at night. As rumours were always prevalent, most internees refused to believe such a ‘preposterous’ tale. Therefore, it came as a great surprise when a male tiger weighing more than 200 pounds was killed just outside the camp by a party of Japanese gendarmes,” he wrote.…

Hi thanks for that information.

I read of rumours of HK tigers at Ma On Shan in 1988,and strange spoor in HK within the last 10 years

"CONSIDERABLE excitement is being felt in Shaukiwan and on the eastern portion of the Island over the rumours that are in circulation of the presence of no less than three tigers on the Peninsula on the mainland opposite Shaukiwan. It is stated that a boy was carried off from one of the villages, and Chan a Fuk, contractor, is said to have seen a tiger near the quarries at the southern end of the Peninsula" 

Source: The China Mail, page 2, 1st February 1893