Inspiring the Future
This section focuses on the unexpected connections between a priest who taught evolution, a pest control officer who loved reptiles, and an endemic tiny frog so hard to spot that it was thought to be extinct but is now found all over Hong Kong.
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Story 11: 1952 John D. Romer
Pest Control Officer
Romer came to Hong Kong in 1947, where he served for 23 years as a pest control officer. Known as the ‘Hong Kong Snakeman’, he was not only a local herpetology authority but also intensively studied bats as well. His enthusiasm influenced amateur naturalists such as Father Anthony Bogadek, mentoring them into the work of discovering and making records of local herpetofauna (including amphibians, reptiles and more). He was once the honorary curator of the Mammal Pavilion at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Park and was also the founder of the Hong Kong Natural History Society.
Romer's Tree Frog
An endangered species unique to Hong Kong, the small, penny-sized Romer Tree Frog was discovered by Romer in a cave on Lamma Island in 1952. The cave collapsed in the following year, leading the scientific community to believe that the tree frog had become extinct until Father Bogadek and his students rediscovered small populations in 1984. One of those students, Dr. Michael Lau subsequently set foot on the path of ecology and devoted himself to conserving Romer's Tree Frog. As part of his work, he successfully relocated the frog from Lantau Island to other locations in Hong Kong when the building of Chep Lap Kok Airport threatened their habitat. While still endangered, the persistence of local Romer’s Tree Frog populations provides some hope they’ll remain a part of Hong Kong’s and the world’s biodiversity community.
Illustrated Guide to Venomous Snakes of Hong Kong
The first illustrated book about snakes in Hong Kong. Written by Romer and published by the Hong Kong Urban Council in 1976, this book provided both ecological information about venomous snakes and practical suggestions for what to do if you met one in the wild.
Story 12: 1984 Anthony Bogadek
©️ St. Louis School
After Romer, Father Bogadek became Hong Kong’s next leading herpetology expert. In 1958, he was sent by the Salesians of Don Bosco in the United Kingdom to serve as a biology teacher at St. Louis School in Sai Wan. Under the guidance of Romer, his interest in reptiles and amphibians grew. He often took his students on field trips to find snakes, reptiles and amphibians after school. He collected animals for observation, research, and made some of them into teaching specimen as well. After Romer passed from illness in 1980, Bogadek continued Romer's incomplete work on a comprehensive Hong Kong herpetofauna book. The book Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles was finally published in 1986. A very humble man, he insisted on listing his students as first and second author despite his contribution as the main writer and researcher of the book.
©️Dr. Sung Yik Hei