Ma On Shan Country Park in the New Territories where the couple were hiking. Photo: Google Maps, Wikimedia Commons, Mike Prince

Police and firemen launched a massive search in the Ma On Shan Country Park in the New Territories after a couple reported seeing a tiger-like animal on Tuesday morning.

At 8am the couple, a 32-year-old man and his 39-year-old wife, told police they spotted a one-meter long animal that looked like a tiger while they were hiking near Tiu Shau Ngam, the Apple Daily reported.

They said the animal was 80 to 100 meters from them. Worried about their safety, they backtracked and called police. Police and firemen then spent several hours looking but found nothing and called off the search at noon.

Police later showed the couple a photo of a leopard cat and they said it looked like the animal they saw. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will follow up.

Billy Hau Chi-hang, the University of Hong Kong’s principal lecturer for biological sciences, said the animal the couple saw was more likely to be a leopard cat as tigers had not been seen in Southern China for more than 20 years, the Ming Pao Daily reported.

According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s website, leopard cats live in countryside areas throughout Hong Kong.

The best-known tiger attack in Hong Kong was 103 years ago. In March 1915, a 2.6-meter Bengal tiger was reported by villagers in Fanling in the New Territories, news website reported.

Police went hunting for it, but the tiger pounced on an Indian policeman and a European man and both men died later of serious injuries.

The tiger was eventually shot days later and its head remains a prized exhibit in the Police Museum on the Peak.

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