Friday, 3 March 2017

More on Natasha du Breuil and her fish and reptile keeping acivities in Hong Kong in the 1950s

I have written previously of Mme Natasha du Breuil's fascinating life and her interest in aquaria and reptiles (here, here and here).

I have found more articles in Water Life magazine which throw some light on her activities and her helpfulness to others.

In an article in the June-July issue of 1953 (a Coronation Special) G.W. Drummond wrote:


     Recently I returned to Hong Kong from Korea and paid many interesting visits to Madame du Breuil. I am indebted to her for many kindnesses, her authority on "anything Chinese" and her vivid interest in anything to do with fish.     Madame du Breuil is keenly interested in the many species of marine fish that abound around Hong Kong and had kept Scatophagus argus, together with two unamed types, in 50 per cent sea water for some time. They were in beautiful condition and I imagine that before long a larger marine tank will be installed in her house. I hope to be able to assist her in collecting some of the fish found locally.     I am also indebted to a friend of Madame du Breuil, a Miss Chu who arranged for me to visit a local Chinese herbalist. He had been successfully breeding Neon Teras for some time...

I have been unable to find anything about G.W. Drummond. His opening statement about returning from Korea might suggest he was in the armed forces. He did include in his article several photographs, typical of the many roadside stalls selling aquaria and fish in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 60s.

Captioned: A fish vendor displaying his
wares in Mercer Street, Hong Kong

Captioned: A local inhabitant glazing outdoors in Hong Kong
Captioned: Catching Semi-banded Barbs in the New Territories

In the same issue it was reported that Mme. du Breuil had 'achieved a successful shipment of live newts by air to Dr G Myers (U.S.A.). It is believed that this species of newt...has rarely been imported alive into the United States. The newts for the special shipment were collected locally by Mr Romer...' Mr Romer was of course John Dudley Romer (1920-1982).

The newts were the Hong Kong Warty Newt Paramesotriton hongkongensis then known as Cynops chinensis (see my blog post on the species).

Finally in the June-July 1956 in her letter to other members of Aquarists' Internationale, she reported on a few of her fish and then:
     The Chinese fishermen's children brought me two sea turtles. They are leathery black, with white fringes round their flippers and a faint white pattern on the head and a longish tail. For the first few days they refused all food, but now go greedily after bits of lean meat. They live in a marine tank...