Couple in Hong Kong spooked by sight of 'tiger', which turns out to be a leopard cat

Wednesday, Mar 07, 2018
Photo: Norman Lim

A couple who went on a morning hike in a Hong Kong country park possibly had the fright of their lives after spotting a 'tiger' on Tuesday (March 6).

Worried about their safety, the man called emergency services saying he had seen a yellow animal about 90cm long in the bushes of Ma On Shan country trail.

Their call for help sparked a rescue operation which saw officers escorting a 32-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman down the hill at around 10am, South China Morning Post reported.

Though they were found unhurt, the duo said they felt ill and were taken to a hospital.

Ma On Shan country trail
Photo: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department

Over 15 emergency services personnel searched the area but did not find any trace of the big cat, the police said. Other hikers also did not see the animal.

The walking trail was reopened to the public later that day.

The incident turned out to be a false alarm as the couple had mistaken a leopard cat for a tiger, according to the police.

Leopard cats are small, spotted wild cats that live in forests. The nocturnal animals are "very shy and will avoid humans," said a lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the number of tigers worldwide has dropped dramatically over recent years.

The last reported tiger sighting in Hong Kong took place in 1947 in Shatin.

Just last month, another 'tiger' sighting was reported in Scotland.

A farmer called the police and said he saw the big cat in his cowshed.

After calling the wildlife park to check that no tigers had escaped, officers later found that the resting felid was a stuffed toy.