Hong Kong (CNN)In 1929, two Chinese farmers were stopped by a British police officer while ambling down a road in a rugged part of Hong Kong's then-expansive rural hinterland.
They weren't committing a crime: they were carrying a caged tiger.
"As it is quite unusual to see a live tiger carried about in the New Territories the police officer was curious to know where it came from," said a front-page report in the Hong Kong Telegraph on October 28 that year.
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," 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.