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Monday, April 13, 2015


The on-running road show that is The Mystery Animals of Hong Kong Research Project has gone down another track-way and appropriately enough ,being shortly after Easter as I write this, I have come across stories of peacocks and feral rabbits in Hong Kong. I say feral because although rabbits do exist in S.E.Asia according to Wikipedia ( see  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit) as well as some Japanese islands and Sumatra, they are not on any “official” lists (by which I mean for example books on Hong Kong wildlife or web sites)  that I know of.

But first of all, peacocks. Geoffrey A.C.  Herklots,in his ` Hong Kong Birds` (1967) mentions “One day I was shewn (sic) in the New Territories near Sheung Shui a magnificient Peacock which had recently been shot . It was probably an escape from captivity which had flourished, for a time, as a wild bird” (1)

The next time peacocks turn up in Hong Kong is in the 1950s or 1960s. According to my correspondent Dennis Quong, who I found  on the Peak School Hong Kong Alumni web site, “ There were few pheasant, peacocks left in the wild as they were easy to catch. You would see one occasionally.”  By “left” he means after World War 2. Quong went to Peak School between 1958 and 1965.

Quong continued ,in his e-mail to me of  April 9th, “I remember porcupine needles/ badger rooting sites and remains of rabbits and lots of various poop pellets from these animals. Don't remember seeing any up close, just the sound of the scuffling and retreating posteriors as they fled the marauding children. The wildlife had become quite adept at avoiding the traps and safaris launched by humans and their progeny.” (2) I myself lived on the Peak from c. 1966-85 and remember seeing once in the early `70s a rabbit scurrying into the bush.

Later on April 9th Quong told me: “The rabbits and peacocks were probably offspring of escaped pets. The largest group of rabbits were around the demolished house behind Little Peak School. The next large groups were on the slopes around Matilda Hospital and Strawberry Hill. The rabbits were never of a large size and the peacock tails usually looked fairly tatty. Don't know if there were any rabbits etc elsewhere; I mainly rampaged around the Peak. There was quite a bit of wildlife along route TWISK and the Kowloon reservoir. There still is a troop of rhesus monkeys there.
take care”
dennis (3)

A Gwulo Hong Kong history web site contributor mentioned, on April 10th that rabbits were sent to Hong Kong from England as pets in the 1920s and 30s and she knew of  a photo of a white one. But Quong says that the ones he saw on The Peak were mottled and brown.

 A map of The Peak,although dated 1915,shows both Matilda Hospital in the far bottom left of the map and Little Peak School where the Police/Fire Station was in the 1970s when I lived on The Peak,is at Gough Hill Police Station at the bottom centre.

There was an attempt to introduce rabbits onto Stonecutters Island in the 19th Century,for hunting,but this failed.Stonecutters Island barely exists as an island now, being fixed to kowloon by reclaimed land.

  1. G.Herklots. Hong Kong Birds (1967) p. 68
  2. E-mail from D.Quong to R.Muirhead April 9th 2015
  3. Ibid.

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