Friday, 22 March 2013

Hong Kong Naturalist: Who Was Roy A Pereira?


In my note on tigers in Hong Kong, I mentioned the report by R.A. Pereira. Pereira wrote a number of articles in Hong Kong Naturalist between 1934 and 1938. There were notes on birds from his shooting trips in the New Territories, on the goldfish, on domesticated ducks, on the goldfish, on a tame Crested Bunting, on cage birds in Hong Kong and, of course, on his sighting of the tiger in December 1934. He also raised incubated the eggs of francolins and reared the young to study their development. But who was Pereira and what became of him?

He gives the most information about himself in his account, To Canton on Foot, of taking a party of scouts from the Chinese border to Canton (Guangdong) at Easter 1935. They walked along the Kowloon-Canton Railway for 140 km (88 miles) in slightly over three days. He was a teacher at St Joseph’s College, a secondary school then, and now, on Kennedy Road on Hong Kong Island. The account of this trek would give 21st century teachers in Britain severe palpitations:

Our plan was to hug the railway as much as possible until Canton was reached, both for safety and necessity, as we were unarmed and carried only a few tins of provisions. 
Most of the younger members, who imagined that they could rough it by sleeping on the bare ground with only a flimsy ground-sheet. were sadly disillusioned. There were mosquitoes galore but with the aid of some eucalyptus we managed to avert many of their intended onslaughts. 
To add to the discomfort we had to traverse two pathless iron bridges in complete darkness, when a slip would have meant a broken leg. 
The railway guard advised us not to sleep at the station as the district was infested with bandits adding that one man had been killed that very morning.
From his articles, it is clear that he had come to Hong Kong from Malaya and that he spoke English, Portuguese and Malay with some understanding of Spanish. It also seems to me that he spoke fluent Cantonese and that is how he obtained so much information from villagers in the New Territories.

In searching for more information, the only snippet I came up with was this newspaper report from the Straits Times of 8 April 1925:


His writings ceased in 1938. Publication of the Hong Kong Naturalist ended in 1941 with the Japanese invasion. Had Roy A. Pereira left Hong Kong by then? Did he return to Malay(si)a?

My clear impression is that he would have left a lasting impression on his pupils at St Joseph’s as well as being an important contributor to the natural history of Hong Kong in pre-Second World War Years. Does anybody have  any more information?