An abandoned red fox, originally thought to be a rare species, will be kept in Ocean Park’s care until the park and a government department can make a decision about its future.

Genetic results released by the park on Thursday showed that the animal was not a marble fox, as originally thought, but a red fox native to Hong Kong. Marble foxes are a genetic variant of red foxes, bred artificially for their unique black-and-white colour.

Ocean Park said that the animal is not compatible with its current collection, and that it will be unable to provide suitable facilities for long-term captivity. The park said that it would keep the fox under its care while it worked with the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to determine further steps.

The red fox was initially believed to be a marble fox. Photo: Hong Kong Animal Post

The animal was found in a catchwater in South Lantau on July 14 by a man, surnamed Lee, and his friend while hiking. Fire services rescued the fox and passed it to the SPCA. The SPCA delivered the fox to Ocean Park’s temporary care facility on July 19.

Reports initially suggested that the fox, measuring 1.5 feet, was a rare species. Due to the animal’s unknown history and origin, it was quarantined and tested for rabies and other infectious diseases.

Genetic tests revealed that the found animal was a red fox (L) rather than a marble fox (R), despite their visual similarity. Photo: Public Domain Pictures; Ber’Zophus/Flickr.

The SPCA said on Wednesday that Ocean Park had asked to return the fox owing to “a shortage of manpower.” However, the animal rights organisation said that it also lacked the facilities to provide a home for it.

The SPCA encouraged the public on Facebook not to import wild animals into the city, saying that non-native creatures pose a threat to the survival of local wildlife. The organisation said that it hoped that the government would strengthen legislation to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Ocean Park said it did not have adequate facilities to keep the fox in long-term captivity. Photo: Wikicommons.

Citizens on Facebook expressed concern that the fox will be humanely euthanised if a solution is not found. Lawmaker Roy Kwong said that he had written to the AFCD and Ocean Park out of concern for the fox’s future, in the hope that the department will make special arrangements to keep the animal in its care and establish more effective measures for dealing with future incidents, according to Hong Kong Animal Post.

He said: “The small red fox has a life, too! He was kicked around, abandoned twice, and remains without a home – this is heartbreaking.”

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.