Owls and Casinos in Macau
Hong Kong long ago banned the cooking and serving of rare and protected animal species, but for many years Macau took a more relaxed approach.
For those who like such things, the colder winter months are the traditional season for eating pangolin, civet cat, snake soup, etc.
One winter back in the late 70s, an English artist friend of mine made a visit to Macau with a group of friends. They dined in a small Chinese restaurant there, which had a cage near the window containing a live owl.
They asked the restaurateur about the owl. He explained it was available as a special item on the menu, to be cooked up in soup.
After some discussion, they offered to buy the owl, with the intention of releasing it or giving it to the zoo after getting it some veterinary attention.
And buy it they did.
The group of friends split into two groups but agreed to meet up later that evening at a prominent meeting point in Macau: the Lisboa Hotel Casino.
My artist friend was in charge of carrying the owl, which was not looking too strong or healthy. So off through the small, narrow cobblestone streets of Macau he walked, carrying an owl perched on his wrist.
A foreigner carrying an owl on the streets of Macau was in itself a strange enough sight, but he also happened to be wearing a traditional Chinese scholar’s gown at the time. Quite a sight.
The appointed time to meet the other friends approached, and he walked into the Lisboa Hotel and was about to enter the casino.
As he started into the casino, with the owl on his arm, several husky casino security personnel blocked his way, and exclaimed:”Not allowed owl in casino!”
Apart from the usual rules regarding pets in hotels, for many Chinese gamblers, the owl is a potent symbol of bad luck. A live owl is about the last thing these hard-core gamblers would want to see approaching them in a casino.
So my friend decided to forego meeting up with friends and head back to his hotel, a 3-star property within walking distance. By this time it was nearly 11 p.m.
He arrived at his hotel and walked in the door, still carrying the owl. As he walked across the hotel lobby, the night manager spotted him with the owl. Alarmed, the night manager jumped up from his desk and proclaimed:”No cooking in the rooms!”
My friend explained the situation, and the night manager let them in.
Sadly, the owl did not make it through the night.
Moral: it’s best to leave owls where we find them–in the wild.