No, it’s not a tiger.
Police said the animal spotted by a couple on a hiking trail at the Ma On Shan Country Park on Tuesday looked like a leopard cat, easing public concern that a tiger may have reappeared in Hong Kong since it was last seen here more than 70 years ago.
A man and wife, surnamed Lee, called the police for help at around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, saying they spotted a yellow animal that looked like a tiger while they were hiking at the Ma On Shan Family Walk.
As they were going toward a hilltop called Tiu Shau Ngam, the couple saw the animal emerge from a scrubby area about 80 meters away, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported. It was about 3 feet long and 1.5 feet tall.
Too scared to continue hiking, they called the police for assistance.
Police officers and firemen later arrived at the scene, took the couple downhill, and launched a hunt together with personnel from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
However, no trace of the alleged tiger was found after a five-hour effort.
The incident turned out to be a false alarm as the couple, after looking at a picture of a leopard cat provided by the police, said the animal they saw was similar to the one in the picture.
Police believe the couple mistook the leopard cat for a tiger.
The AFCD said it has never caught sight of a tiger since it set up infrared cameras in the countryside in 2002.
In April 2013, some villagers at Sha Lo Tung in Tai Po suspected a tiger was roaming in the vicinity after seeing big animal footprints and hearing strange noises at night. Their suspicion, however, has never been corroborated.
The AFCD said wild leopard cats are nocturnal animals that often show up at country parks. They have been seen at Plover Cove, Pat Sin Leng, Sai Kung and Tai Lam, as well as the Mai Po Nature Reserve.
Professor Ken Yung Kin-lam, from the department of biology at the Hong Kong Baptist University, said that hikers see such wild cats, they should keep observing them while walking backward slowly. Such action is recommended so that they won’t be attacked from behind.
According to Apple Daily, Hong Kong has only sighted a tiger twice in history, one in Sheung Shui in 1915 and the other in Stanley in 1942.
Both tigers were shot to death by police and their bodies preserved. The head of the tiger found in Sheung Shui is currently exhibited at the Police Museum at The Peak. The skin of the one in Stanley is stored at Tin Hau Temple in Stanley.
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