Locals ready for bullfight over four-legged friend

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am


One of Sai Kung's best-known and most photographed residents could be kicked out as a result of an ongoing operation by a government department, an animal-rights group fears.

Grumpy the bull is a regular sight in Sai Kung's centre and is often seen in flower beds or loitering outside the popular bars and restaurants.

Until recently he was one of several cattle roaming the area freely. However, over the past three months, numbers have dwindled as a result of a relocation operation by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Some 85 bulls and cows have been rounded up from Sai Kung's urban areas and relocated in the country park after being desexed and tagged at the agriculture department's animal-management centre.

In the most recent operation just over a fortnight ago, nine cattle were taken from the 26 living around Sha Kok Mei village on the edge of Sai Kung centre, leaving only three of the original herd, including Grumpy.

The department says the round-up operation is in the interest of public safety and the cattle's welfare and follows more than 20 complaints about dangers posed by stray cattle since August.

But Sai Kung Buffalo Watch feels this relocation is robbing Sai Kung of its rural heritage and fears it is only a matter of time before Grumpy is forced to move on.

The group, formed two years ago by expatriates and indigenous villagers, said it co-operated in previous official round-ups, but did so on the understanding a small, sustainable herd would stay in Sha Kok Mei.

'There has been a huge amount of co-operation with the agriculture department, but from the beginning it has always been about keeping a sustainable group in Sha Kok Mei,' said Caroll Biddell, a founding member. 'Now they have said we were never promised that. We were devastated when we got an e-mail saying they were coming to take the cows away.

'The villagers were up in arms, too.'

Biddell said the group accepted that the cattle could not be returned, but they were concerned about Grumpy's fate.

'We've been told he will not be removed unless he causes a nuisance, but our concern is that the department registers all calls about cattle as complaints, even those where people are just concerned about cows on roads.

'He is not a nuisance. In fact, we have seen him using the zebra crossings and he often uses the footpath rather than walking on the road.'

The department estimates there are about 1,200 stray cattle in Hong Kong's rural areas, with about 230 in Sai Kung. They are believed to be descended from herds abandoned when rural residents left their farms.

Department veterinary officer Dr Howard Wong Kai-hay told the Sunday Morning Post that considerable resources had been put into managing the cattle, which in the past were slaughtered if found to be a nuisance.

'Public safety and animal welfare is our priority,' he said. 'Our policy is to reduce any nuisance and to increase public safety to the extent they [the cattle] will be tolerated by the public. But there were too many. The last thing I want is someone to get injured in a car crash because of a cow that I had the authority to remove but decided not to.

'Grumpy is quite a celebrity. If people tolerate him and he doesn't cause a nuisance, then we certainly will not move him.'