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Thursday, December 16, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: SOME HONG KONG ODDITIES,BADGERS,FLYING LIZARDS AND DUGONGS.

Folks, over the last week or two, I have been searching through the Trove Australian newspaper online database, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/search?adv=y with some interesting Hong-Kong-related results. Here they are, below, in chronological order.

There is a report in a 19th century travel book of flying lizards on islands of the coast of South China, which I read recently, which sounds very much like the area around Hong Kong and Macao. Unfortunately I didn`t note down the bibliographical details properly, though I have seen a photograph on the Net of dried flying lizards in a Hong Kong Chinese medicine market that look like Draco volans and I have read that there are flying lizards in China. Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles 2nd ed. has no mention of flying lizards in Hong Kong.

From The Land of Chrysanthemums Vol 4 1894 by Dr W.E. Roth `Notes of a Voyage from Queensland to Japan and China`

'The City Hall possesses a most interesting and typical collection of animal life captured within the colony which, considering that the area of the island is just about thirty square miles, certainly does it great credit. For instance, in addition to the insect fauna, comprising numerous beetles dragon-flies, butterflies and white ants, several worms, scorpions and snails, about six dozen different birds and over thirty varieties of reptiles have been discovered within its limits. According to the guide books, “ a small deer, a badger, and a species of wild cat are the only representatives of the larger wild animals.”'

The interesting thing is that it has never been definitely established as to whether or not the badger has ever been a part of Hong Kong`s fauna but here we have an example of it being stated that it was. The last record of a Chinese badger in Hong Kong was in 1922.

Grotesque Fish With Strange Habits The Advertiser (Adelaide) August 10th 1935

This short extract from a longer article could refer to the Dugong, or something else entirely:

'For instance there is the plenny, which is able to emit a piercing shriek; while in the waters around Hong Kong there is found a fish with a human looking head, which cries like a baby.'

World`s Laziest Creature. The Canberra Times January 18th 1937

One of the occupants of the London Zoo is Sligo, the Chinese Salamander, which as far as can be ascertained, is utterly unlike any other salamander or creature in the world. Exactly where he was born or who his parents were. Unknown also is the story of his early days- whether his father and mother,surprised at the appearance of their baby son, expelled him from the family, or whether the poor little creature, wandered off on his own.Somehow, Sligo managed to find the water, which is life to his kind and he battled through a lonely childhood, to be discovered eventually, flourishing in a disused drain in Hong Kong. From there, because his head was much flatter.his body blacker, and his length shorter than is fashionable among slamanders, he was labelled as a new species, and bundled off to the London Zoo.

Not one other salamander like Sligo has been found. He is, apparently, a creature unique in the world. His keeper says “ He should be in this tank for the next 40 to 50 years at least, though of course he may be different in this as he is in most other things.” …” Funny lungs he has,” says the keeper, “he would make a fortune as a diver if he was human. That is,if he worked at all, because I`ve never seen a more lazy creature: not a stroke of exercise, and we have to tickle him once a week to make him feed or he wouldn`t bother even to do that

The Manchu Man Fish The Queenslander September 28th 1938

The following extract concerns the Manchu Man Fish, probably the Dugong

Manchu Man Fish. “ Mention of the enterprising showman who toured the southern capitals with those slightly disguised embalmed dugongs that he exhibited as “mermaids”. “L.M.M.” (Queenslander 27/7/38) reminds me of a crowd I saw collected in George Street, Sydney, only a month ago. When I finally managed to push my way through the crowd I found I was staring into the window of a sporting goods shop, and was confronted by a peculiar looking beastie that appeared to be half-fish and half-monkey, a descriptive placard informing the curious that he was now looking at one of the celebrated Manchu man-fish, its habitat being the eastern waters of the China coast, where it had the reputation of living solely on the bodies of female children that had been cast into the waters of the sulky Whang-po by disgruntled mothers who had been expecting a man child. The placard finished with the statement that the man-fish was so rare that this one on exhibition had been the only one captured in the last 30 years…Even 20 years ago it was still possible to buy one of these deceptions in most Eastern ports. Writer had one, but it disappeared in smoke when the old S.S.Boon Sing went up in flames near Hong Kong in 1917. I tried to obtain one in 1928 , but I searched the bazaars of Shanghai and Kowloon unsuccessfully, and a two months` search around Singapore`s “kampong jawa” was no more successful.”

There is a blog dated December 10th 2010 with a photo of a Buddhist emptying a bucket or bag with a small octopus in it into Hong Kong/Victoria harbour. Apparently the monks buy animals from local Chinese markets in order to set them free. If this is going on unregulated then it is going to greatly alter the local fauna.



1. Brisbane Courier April 25th 1894 p.6
2. The Adelaide Advertiser August 10th 1935 p.9
3. The Canberra Times January 18th 1937 p.4
4. The Queenslander September 28th 1938 p.2


TALKING HEADS

ANIMALS


I`m mad, and that`s a fact
I found out, animals don`t help,
Animals think,they`re pretty smart
Shit on the ground, see in the dark

They walk around like a crazy dof
Make a mistake in the parking lot
Always bumping into things
Always let you down,down,down…

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

Good news on the flying lizards you turned up there: I had previously heard rumours of that sort originating in Taiwan and in the Phillipines (Wilkins is the source) and a student in Japan once drew a picture of a "Small flying dragon" he reportedly saw in Japan: that too looks like a Draco lizard. I have that info at Frontiers of Zoology: the student's drawing is in one of the photo albums there.

Coincidentally, I also just heard again this morning from Vladimir P, the Russian that sent me the information about Flying Snakes reported around Novgorod.