Officers step up battle to rein in Sai Kung's feral cattle

Barriers, bushes and GPS collars the latest tactics used amid concerns over 'cannibal cows'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 6:36am

Country park officials have set up barriers and planted bushes to stop herds of feral cows harassing weekenders and scavenging food from barbecue sites.

The move comes amid concerns over so-called "cannibal cows" that have been seen eating meat including beef from popular spots for weekend visitors in Sai Kung Country Park.

Warning signs, bollards and shrubs have been installed by the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) around the barbecue area at Wong Shek Pier where hundreds of people gather for weekend barbecues in an effort to stop the menace.

The measures are part of an on-going programme to control feral cattle in the country park. Other measures include tagging and neutering cows and installing "Do not feed the cattle" signs at the Wong Shek and Tai Tan barbecue site. Officials have also planted a hedgerow of a plant called duranta erecta, a shrub classed as a weed and invasive species in several countries, along the perimeter of the site.

A number of cows have been fitted with GPS collars as a part of a HK$330,000 study to track their movements and test the effectiveness of a relocation programme. The number of feral cows in the park has soared to around 400 over the past two years as a result of the AFCD programme, which involves rounding the cows up from urban areas in Sai Kung, neutering them, and moving them to the park.

However, animal welfare groups expressed concern last November after videos were shot showing cows scavenging on rubbish and eating raw and partially cooked beef steaks from lit barbecues at the Wong Shek site.

An AFCD spokesperson said so far the measures had proved effective in deterring the cattle from the barbecue sites and there had been no complaints regarding cattle causing a nuisance in January or February.

She said so far four cows had been fitted with the GPS collars in Sai Kung, plus one in Lantau and one in the New Territories, with each collar costing around HK$20,000 each. Another six will be fitted to cows at a later date.

"As the GPS collar survey is still going on, a conclusion regarding the cattle movement is yet to be reached," she said.

"From our observations, some cattle wandered significant distances and sometimes returned to their original locations following the relocation. But some cattle have remained inside the country park.

"We will continue to monitor the stray cattle situation around the site and carry out further improvement measures when necessary," she said.

Karina O'Carroll, of Sai Kung Buffalo Watch, a volunteer group set up to protect the cattle, said they were happy with the measures at Wong Shek and appreciated the time and effort being made by the AFCD to keep the cattle safe.

"We hope that people will continue to enjoy the presence of the cattle, but will also be mindful of their own behaviour and act accordingly around all wildlife."