A herd of feral cattle have become scavenging meat-eaters as a result of day trippers feeding them and dumping left-over food at a barbecue site in Sai Kung Country Park.
The cattle have become regular visitors at the Wong Shek Pier site, where they eat food scraps left in rubbish bins and items fed to them by barbecue parties, despite official notices warning people not to do so. The animals have even been seen eating raw and partially cooked beef steaks from lit barbecues. Animal welfare experts claim the behaviour is risking the health of the cattle, which are herbivores and cannot easily digest items such as meat and bread.
The number of cattle roaming the country park has grown in the last 12 months since the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) began moving them from the urban areas around Sai Kung to the country park.
Both the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Sai Kung Buffalo Watch says there is ample vegetation for the cattle to feed on in the country park however they had acquired a taste for human food because of irresponsible littering and feeding by picnickers.
SPCA executive director Sandy Macalister said the situation was similar to what had happened with monkeys, feral dogs and cats, and wild pigs.
"It stems from irresponsible behaviour of people either feeding the cattle…and from people not removing their rubbish or tidying up after barbequing or picnicking," said Macalister.
An AFCD spokesperson said it discouraged people from feeding wild animals and signs urging people not to feed cattle had been put in Sai Kung Country Park after a complaint about cattle intruding on a barbecue site in 2009.
The AFCD estimates there are 400 feral cattle in the Sai Kung area. The spokesperson said although it was not known how many were in the country park around 45 had been moved there as part of their relocation and sterilisation programme.