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They weren’t committing a crime: they were carrying a caged tiger.

Two days earlier, the men realized a deer trap they had set 400 yards (365 meters) from their village had gone missing. They followed tracks etched in the dirt where it had been dragged to a pit — inside, they discovered a wounded tiger, the jaws of the metal snare biting into its leg.

Police sent the tiger to a Hong Kong amusement park, where it died shortly after. A policeman became the “proud possessor of the skin,” according to a later news report.

“That story makes you wonder how many tigers were being carried around by locals that we never heard about”John Saeki,

“That story makes you wonder how many tigers were being carried around by locals that we never heard about,” says John Saeki, a journalist who is researching a book about tigers in Hong Kong.

In the early 1900s, zoologists — and the public — were skeptical that wild tigers existed in Hong Kong, despite repeated incidents. Saeki has found hundreds of mentions of tiger sightings and big cat encounters in local newspapers, from the 1920s to as recently as the 1960s — although some might have been sightings of the same tiger, while others were not verified to be more than a rumor.

There was the 1911 tiger which swam out to Hong Kong’s outlying island of Lamma and feasted on cattle. The tiger in 1916 whose roar terrified commuters on the Peak Tram. And the 1937 big cat who ate a woman whole, leaving just her blood stains on the mountainside.
In 1914, after a tiger left paw prints within 10 yards of Chief Justice Sir William Rees-Davies house, in the upscale Peak neighborhood, a local newspaper wrote: “He had always been incredulous of tiger visit stories — but this morning here was nothing left to doubt.”

So how could tiger sightings be real when big cats didn’t live in Hong Kong?

Saeki explains that political turmoil in mainland China in the first half of the 20th century made food harder to find for the South China tiger.

About 20,000 of the diminutive cats, the smallest of the tiger species, roamed the mostly rural mountains of southern China during that period. Some would slink over the border to feast on farmers’ cattle and boar in Hong Kong, before slipping back over the hills to the north — occasionally feasting on a human, rather than an animal.

The South China tiger

The tiger is a potent symbol in Chinese culture. In traditional Chinese medicine, tiger-penis soup has for centuries been consumed by men to increase sexual virility. Tiger-bone wine is believed to cure rheumatism, weakness, or paralysis. And tiger whiskers were once used for toothaches, eyeballs for epilepsy — the list goes on.

The white tiger is one of the four sacred animals of the Chinese constellation. And those born in the year of the tiger are thought to be brave, strong, and sympathetic.

But on a practical level, these majestic big cats have for centuries preyed on humans in China.

More than 10,000 people were killed or injured by tigers in four provinces of South China — Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Guangdong — between the years 48 A.D. to 1953, according to gazetteer records in the Ancient Books Collection at Fujian Normal University, analyzed by Chris Coggins in his 2003 book “The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture and Conservation in China.”

A Hong Kong news report from 1929 details how a tiger that was captured in the city died in captivity there.

He says that figure is conservative because 395 records did not specify the numbers of casualties — just that at least one attack had occurred. Tiger encounters featured more regularly in records than those by Asiatic black bears, wolves, red dogs, or wild boar, Coggins writes, and were predominantly South China tigers. Small numbers of Siberian and Bengal tigers still live in other pockets of China, but it was the South China tiger that encountered humans south of the Yangtze River.

In the early 20th century, when American Methodist Harry Caldwell turned up in southern China on a mission to spread Christianity, he chanced on a near-foolproof way to convert villagers into Christians — he taught them how to kill tigers. In his memoir “Blue Tiger,” Caldwell describes how, in April 1910, he shot dead a big cat that had just killed a 16-year-old Chinese boy. “The killing of that beast turned almost an entire village Christian,” he wrote. The Chinese, as he tells it, were fascinated by his American gun.

“The killing of that beast turned almost an entire village Christian.”Harry Caldwell,
20th century missionary

Methodist minister Harry Caldwell, with a tiger he killed in Fujian. He wrote of the animal: "I shot the animal with a .22-caliber high-power Savage rifle at close range, after the animal had charged me from a long distance. This is a bit of real missionary work I have greatly enjoyed, and incidentally have found most helpful in the preaching of the gospel.

Any God that made such a machine, he convinced them, was one they should worship.

In his book, Caldwell tells of villages under siege from big cats across southern China. Fuqing, a coastal community in Fujian province, was the heart of South China tiger country. In this village — which is now a city — Caldwell describes how every person bolted their gate at night, and protectively brought their precious cattle, pigs and water buffalo into the inner courtyards of their homes, petrified of nightly tiger attacks.

“Men tending their herds or walking along the trails disappeared, or were found mangled and half eaten. Crops were going untended; paralysis began to settle on the hills … People were afraid to stir from their houses,” wrote Harry’s son, John Caldwell, in a 1953 book about his father’s life.

Harry Caldwell boasted of killing nearly 50 of the South China tigers that had stalked a vast area south of the Yangtze River for centuries, as he pushed religion with his rifle.

A tiger that was hunted in Fujian, China, in 1921. The photograph was taken by William Lord Smith, a British hunter who organized the hunt and shot the tiger.

Caldwell’s tiger hunting went unchecked, as did that of British trophy hunters such as William Lord Smith, who recounted his tales in the 1920 book “The Cave Tiger of China.”

While men with guns hunted cats, the locals continued to encroach on the animals’ natural habitat, coming into conflict with them and eating their traditional prey, as political turmoil drove people farther into the countryside. As a result, the population of the South China tiger dwindled from about 20,000 in 1905 to just 4,000 by early 1950s.

When the Communist Party of China came to power in 1949, things didn’t get better, with Chairman Mao Zedong taking aim at animals deemed to be pests such as tigers, says Saeki. “There was a concerted campaign to wipe them out,” he adds.

Coggins writes that animals that attacked livestock, ate crops, or spread disease were seen as an obstacle to progress. “Large livestock predators, such as tigers (which have a colorful history of dining on people in southern China) and wolves, were attacked systematically. Animals that posed a threat to grain crops were trapped, shot, and poisoned by the thousands,” Coggins writes.

From the 1940s onwards, Saeki says, the number of tiger sightings in Hong Kong rocketed, as the big cats — which thought nothing of walking 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a day — trekked further afield to find food.

Tigers in Hong Kong

While today Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than nearly anywhere else in the world, in 1900 it was an agricultural landscape of wild mountains home to just 280,000 people.

As the city urbanized throughout the 20th century, tiger stories became a fanciful distraction from the tumult of two world wars, and then the huge influx of migrants who poured over the border from mainland China.

But two big cat tales, in particular, have lingered in the public imagination — perhaps because the stuffed bodies of both their protagonists have been displayed in the city.

The first story involves a tiger from 1915.

When Hong Kong villagers told colonial police officers they had seen a tiger on the loose in Sheung Shui, near the border with mainland China, the British dismissed the sightings, putting it down to “the Chinese propensity for exaggeration,” notes a South China Morning Post newspaper report from the time.

Then a villager died — and the police took their claims seriously.

“Animals that posed a threat to grain crops were trapped, shot, and poisoned by the thousands.”Chris Coggins,

Ernest Goucher, a 21-year-old police officer from Nottingham, England, was dispatched to investigate, along with his Indian colleague, Constable Ruttan Singh. The two were attacked by the huge tiger — Singh died immediately, while Groucher was taken to hospital, “terribly lacerated about the loins,” according to media reports. He died soon after.

When Assistant Superintendent of Police, Donald Burlingham, finally shot dead the animal on March 9, 1915, it measured just over 7 feet (2.2 meters) from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, was about 3 feet (1 meter) high and its paws were 6 inches (15 centimeters) across. It weighed 288 pounds (131 kilograms).

When the dead cat was exhibited in Hong Kong City Hall the day after it had been shot, thousands of people lined up to see it. Today, its stuffed head is on display at the city’s Police Museum.

The other tale is of a big cat, whose skin hangs in the Tin Hau Temple in Stanley, on the belly of Hong Kong Island.

A view of Hong Kong in 1955, with the Tiger Balm Garden with its pagoda in the far lef.
In 1942, when the city was occupied by Japan during World War II, this tiger began terrorizing prisoners and guards outside the Stanley Internment Camp, where thousands of non-Chinese prisoners were held.

For weeks, it prowled the grounds at night, roaring at internees.

George Wright-Nooth, a prisoner at the camp, wrote in his diary: “Last night Langston and Dalziel, who were sleeping outside at the back of the bungalow, were woken up at about 5.00 a.m. by snarls and growls.”

At first the prisoners wrote the tiger off as a “preposterous tale.”

“Langston … got up to have a look. He went to the edge of the garden and looked down the slope to the wire fence. There Dalziel saw him leap in the air and fly back into the boiler room shouting ‘There’s a tiger down there.'”

Within the camp, Wright-Nooth wrote, “none of the bungalows has any doors or windows” — the open camp was largely self-governed by the foreign prisoners, and fortified by high fences and soldiers with guns to prevent their escape.

A picture of prisoners at the Stanley Internment on September 27, 1945.

Eventually, an Indian police officer shot the tiger. One of the internees, a butcher before the war, was taken out of the camp to skin the animal, which was then stuffed and displayed in the city.

“The meat was not wasted either,” Wright-Nooth wrote. “Some officials of the Hong Kong Race Club were recently given the rare treat of having a feast of tiger meat.

“The meat, which was as tender and delicious as beef, was from the tiger shot at Stanley.”

No chance today

In the post-war years, tiger sightings in Hong Kong became less frequent, with news reports in the late 1950s chronicling sightings that were never confirmed.

In 1965, a schoolgirl reported seeing a tiger on Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak, but with no tell-tale paw prints, mangled cattle or photograph of the big cat, its existence was never confirmed.

The dwindling number of sightings was perhaps not unsurprising — tiger numbers in mainland China were dangerously low.

“They killed a lot of South China tigers in the 50s,” says Saeki. “Then by the 70s they realized they were about to lose one of the best, great species of China. And there was a kind of a panicked attempt to bring them back but it hasn’t really happened.”

In 1977, the year after Mao’s death, the Chinese government outlawed the killing of tigers. In the following reform era, authorities hired specialists to investigate the status of the subspecies. Experts declared the South China tiger was on the verge of extinction, with just 30 to 50 of the animals believed to remain in wildly disparate pockets of their mountainous habitat — and therefore, unlikely to breed, writes Coggins.

Their efforts came too late. Today, the species is believed to be extinct outside captivity, according to the World Wildlife Fund — there have been no sightings in the wild for more than 25 years. Camera traps that have been laced across South China have failed to reveal wild tigers.
 A South China tiger cub at Guangzhou Zoo on June 22, 2017, in China. Guangzhou Zoo breeds the species.
The government has, in recent years, spoken of its desire to reintroduce South China tigers to the wild in what would be the world’s first major tiger reintroduction program.
But Coggins is skeptical a return to their natural habitat is even possible. There are about 100 South China tigers in captivity, mostly kept in Chinese zoos and breeding centers. Those at zoos in Shanghai, Luoyang and Henan province have been bred from a very small pool and have genetic deformities.

“I saw a tiger in one facility in about 2014 that had severely deformed rear leg hind legs. It couldn’t even walk normally,” says Coggins. “I talked to one of the managers, who said it’s probably a genetic defect. So that project has not really gone forward.”

Instead, Beijing is putting more attention into its conservation efforts for the Siberian tiger — of which there are fewer than 500 left in the world, and which roam across the border from Russia, into China’s far northeast.

That tiger, experts agree, is unlikely to ever find a need to wander down to Hong Kong, where tiger sightings are now limited to the stuffed and skinned animals of a bygone species.

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A Foreign Office Minister Has Resigned From Government Over Plans To Cut International Aid

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Baroness Liz Sugg (right) is a minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (PA)

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The government is facing a brewing backbench rebellion and ministerial resignations over its controversial plans to scrap the UK’s pledge to give 0.7% of GDP in international aid.

Baroness Liz Sugg, minister for overseas territories and sustainable development at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), submitted her resignation following the move.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, she said it was “fundamentally wrong” to abandon the commitment, adding that it should be “kept in the tough times as well as the good”. 

“Given the link between our development spend and the health of our economy, the economic downturn has already led to significant cuts this year and I do not believe we should reduce our support further at a time of unprecedented global crises,” she continued.

“I cannot support or defend this decision, it is therefore right that I tend my resignation.”

The plan has also sparked anger from a number of backbench Tory MPs, with one former minister claiming the cut could lead to 100,000 preventable deaths. 

Rishi Sunak confirmed in his Spending Review on Wednesday that the UK would be reducing the commitment  0.7% of GDP international aid commitment to 0.5% following the crippling effects of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.

He told MPs: “During a domestic fiscal emergency, when we need to prioritise our limited resources on jobs and public services. 

“Sticking rigidly to spending 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid, is difficult to justify to the British people, especially when we’re seeing the highest peacetime levels of borrowing on record.”

It is understood that the government would increase the level of aid spending back its original level in the future once the economic situation improved. 

But a Treasury source suggested that MPs were unlikely to get a chance to vote on the aid cut, as the law enshrining the commitment allows for it to be adjusted in challenging circumstances.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell told PoliticsHome yesterday he hoped to lead a rebellion against the changes to aid.

Speaking in the Commons following the chancellor’s statement, Mr Mitchell told Mr Sunak the decision “will be the cause of 100,000 preventable deaths, mainly among children.

“This is a choice I for one am not prepared to make and none of us in this House will be able to look our children in the eye and claim we did not know what we were voting for,” he added. 

Fellow backbenchers Peter Bottomley, Tobias Ellwood and Pauline Latham also spoke out against the move and expressed their intention to oppose it.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined criticised the government, writing on Twitter that cutting aid was “shameful and wrong”.

“It’s contrary to numerous government promises and its manifesto. I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest,” he added. 


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Diego Maradona dies: Three days of mourning begin in Argentina as tributes pour in

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Diego Maradona (centre) and Ossie Ardiles (right) played together at the 1982 World Cup

Today’s football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo “could not even dream” of being admired as much as Diego Maradona was, says his former Argentina team-mate Ossie Ardiles.

Three days of national mourning have begun in Argentina after Maradona died on Wednesday at the age of 60.

His body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentina government, during that time.

“To be Diego Maradona was incredibly beautiful,” Ardiles told the BBC.

“But on the other hand, it was not easy at all. Right from a really early age, he was subject to the press all the time. He didn’t have a normal childhood, he never had normal teenage years.

“Everybody wanted to be with him, everybody wanted a piece of him, so it was incredibly difficult.”

Maradona, who played for clubs including Barcelona and Napoli, was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals.

Former Tottenham midfielder Ardiles, who played alongside Maradona at the 1982 World Cup, said he was “a god” in Argentina, in Naples and all around the world.

“He will be remembered as a genius in football,” he added. “You can see the extraordinary amount of interest that he generates.

“People like [Juventus and Portugal striker] Ronaldo, or people like [Barcelona and Argentina forward] Messi, they couldn’t even dream of having this kind of admiration.

“That was the Maradona phenomenon – all the time.”

A post-mortem examination was due to take place on Maradona’s body later on Wednesday after he died at about midday local time at his home in Tigre, near Buenos Aires.

The former Argentina attacking midfielder and manager had successful surgery on a brain blood clot earlier in November and was to be treated for alcohol dependency.

A minute’s silence took place before Wednesday’s Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.

Messi and Ronaldo were among current players to pay tribute, while Brazilian football great Pele said he hoped one day they would “play ball together in the sky”.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Maradona “made world football better”.

“There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago, that I read that said: ‘No matter what you have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you do for our lives,'” former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola added.

“It expresses perfectly what this guy gave us. The man of joy and pleasure and his commitment for world football.”

Former Tottenham manager and Argentina defender Mauricio Pochettino said: “Broken with pain. Diego, you were my hero and friend. I was so fortunate to have shared football and life with you.”

The Vatican said Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football fan, would be remembering Maradona in his prayers.

Fans mourn their hero

In Argentina, Wednesday’s match between Sport Club Internacional and Maradona’s former club Boca Juniors was postponed.

Fans flocked to La Bombonera, Boca Juniors’ stadium in Buenos Aires, where many were in tears – despite, in the case of some, being too young to remember Maradona’s playing days.

They also congregated in the San Andres neighbourhood, where Maradona lived, and to La Plata, where he most recently was manager of local club Gimnasia y Esgrima.

In the country’s capital, “gracias Diego” replaced train information on digital metro signs, while fans sang La Mano De Dios (The Hand Of God) in city suburbs.

Boca Juniors women's player Yamila Rodriguez cries in front of graffiti image of Diego Maradona

Thousands of miles away, they also gathered outside Napoli’s San Paolo stadium, which was lit up in tribute to the man who scored 81 goals in 188 appearances for the Italian club.

Fireworks erupted in the sky as those below, clad in Maradona shirts and even Maradona face masks, chanted and wept.

Presentational grey lineAnalysis box by Katy Watson, South America correspondent

Maradona wasn’t just a sportsman for Argentinians, he was an icon, a political player and of course, a loveable rogue. There is deep sadness as people prepare to pay their respects to their superstar footballer.

But his influence goes beyond Argentina – South Americans are proud of their footballing heritage so this news has resonated across the region.

In neighbouring Brazil, where their man Pele vied for the title of world’s best footballer, Maradona’s death was headline news – much of the rivalry between the two countries can be put down to the two players, such is the passion for the beautiful came here.

But rivalry was put aside with Pele paying tribute to Maradona as a dear friend.

“One day, I hope, we will have a kick about together in heaven,” he said.

Presentational grey line

A statement from Napoli said: “Everyone is waiting for our words but what words could we possibly use for a pain such as this that we are going through?

“Now is the moment for tears. Then there will be the moment for words.

“We are in mourning. We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock. A devastating blow for both city and club.”

A day of mourning will take place in Naples on Thursday.

The mayor of the city, Luigi de Magistris, has called for the Stadio San Paolo be renamed in honour of Maradona.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Paul Elliott, who played against Maradona while at Pisa, said: “I have to say it was remarkable. There was a sublime talent that this man had, an aura, a presence, and you know when you feel a sense of energy.

“Napoli is a very poor part of the south of Italy, but their whole world was built around Maradona and Napoli.

“If you look at where the club was when he arrived, the impact of one man unequivocally was the key and the catalyst to the success that they had, and the way he just gave everybody hope.

“That was just by his remarkable, sublime talent.”

Fans gather outside Napoli's stadiumA Napoli fan cries while looking at Maradona tributesA mother and son mourn Maradona outside La BomboneraA fan wearing a Maradona Argentina shirt looks at a tribute in Buenos AiresA woman lights a candle at a tribute in La Plata

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Nearly 100 whales die in mass stranding in New Zealand

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Some 97 whales and three dolphins died in the stranding, which conservation department staff were alerted to around midday local time on Sunday.

A power outage and the remote location of New Zealand’s most eastern islands, around 500 miles east off the country’s South Island, meant Department of Conservation rangers did not arrive at Waitangi West Beach until 3 p.m., officials said.

“Only 26 of the whales were still alive at this point, the majority of them appearing very weak, and were euthanized due to the rough sea conditions and almost certainty of there being great white sharks in the water which are brought in by a stranding like this,” biodiversity ranger Jemma Welch said in a statement.

Pilot whales — small, toothed whales with a bulging forehead, a short snout and pointed flippers — are sociable creatures, and live in groups of dozens, hundreds or even thousands.

Two more whales were stranded on Monday and also had to be euthanized, the Department of Conservation said, adding that the whales will be left to decompose naturally.

Sri Lanka rescues 100 beached whales after mass stranding

Representatives from the Indigenous Hokotehi Moriori Trust and Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust performed a karakii/karakia — a prayer, or incantation — to honor the spirit of the whales on Sunday, the department added.

Mass strandings are common on the Chatham Islands, according to the department, which said that up to 1,000 animals died in a stranding in 1918.

In September, more than 450 pilot whales beached in Tasmania, Australia, in that state’s largest ever beaching. At least a third died during rescue attempts.

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