Marcus Tancock hopes to gather 5,000 signatures in a petition to officials The leader of the activists fighting for the return of 15 detained water buffalo to Lantau says he is doing it out of love for them. He has already spent $20,000 of his own money on the effort. Marcus Tancock, 33, has lived in Pui O all his life and says he has loved the animals since he was a child. He is the founder and chairman of the Lantau Buffalo Association. His first memory of the water buffalo was when he was three, watching them with his family on a beach. 'I love the buffalo,' said Mr Tancock, who has three dogs, two cats and four chickens. 'I'd be sitting on the beach and they'd lick the back of my head and press me gently.' He founded the association in July after seeing officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department take the buffalo away. The animals were detained after residents of Pui O complained that the animals fouled the area and ate plants from gardens. Mr Tancock has spent $20,000 of his own money on the association, which now has custom-made polo shirts that read 'buffalo soldier' on the back. He started a petition last week to get signatures from people on the streets and customers of The Body Shop, where he is managing director for its Hong Kong and Macau outlets. He hopes to collect 5,000 signatures before the activists, accompanied by a legislator, meet government officials on Thursday. If Mr Tancock gets what he wants, the 15 water buffalo will be returned, and they will be allowed to live with the other buffalo in a designated area off the beach in Pui O, where the association will monitor them. But first, he has to fend off concerns from villagers who fear the presence of the animals could limit development opportunities in the area. Others are worried about the other buffalo roaming freely around the island. Cheung Yuk-wah, a representative of Ham Tin village in Pui O, said there were about 40 wild water buffalo in Pui O. He said a farmer let a few of the animals loose about 20 years ago and their population has grown since then, reaching about 100 at one point. Mr Cheung is concerned that the animals will continue to multiply and that the villagers' problems with the buffalo will not go away.