HOLDING a net in one hand and brandishing a stick in the other was an all-too-common pose for Dr Lee Ping-chung in his quest to preserve Hong Kong's rarest butterflies. For the ardent collector, whose greatest fear is dogs, often had to outrun excited animals as he wandered through New Territories villages in search of the 'beautiful creatures'. But yesterday, Dr Lee, 48, donated his collection of more than 300 specimens, including 104 local species, to the Hong Kong Museum of History. Preserved in 18 display cabinets, the delicate creatures were caught during Dr Lee's childhood and early adult years. He has been fascinated by butterflies for more than 30 years but laments the steady decline in the territory's butterfly population. The number of species in Hong Kong is unknown because of the difficulty in collection. He now wants to share his fine collection with people of Hong Kong. His collecting continued until 1971 when work commitments curtailed his hobby, but now the former collector is an avid anti-collector. 'It's fine for people to catch any natural living thing but then they should leave it in its own environment,' he said. 'Now there are fewer and fewer butterflies.' The pride of Dr Lee's collection is a large troids helena, a poisonous butterfly which is sometimes mistaken for a bird. The chairman of the Urban Council Museums Select Committee, Mok Ying-fan, said: 'Dr Lee has set a good example by donating a large collection of butterfly specimens. 'It makes more people aware of the importance of donations for preserving Hong Kong culture.'