The campaign to save wild water buffalo in Lantau has received a boost, with officials agreeing to direct complaints about the animals to a protection group. The Lantau Buffalo Association welcomed the move because it would allow its staff to work directly with villagers, spokeswoman Winnie Lau said. Some villagers have complained about the buffalo destroying plants and scratching cars. After previous complaints, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officers had tranquillised some buffalo and taken them to a shelter in Sheung Shui, where they have been kept for up to a year. Department officials have agreed not to kill the animals and are now waiting for the buffalo association to secure a lease on property to house the animals. They have given the association three months to find a place. During a meeting with department officials last Thursday, the association handed over a petition with about 3,500 signatures in support of conserving the buffalo. Meanwhile, Ms Lau said the association would begin looking for a consultant to study the population of wild water buffalo in Pui O and the maximum number of buffalo that could be kept there. The association has applied to rent about half a hectare of fenced-off land in Pui O to house the animals. The Lands Department is considering the application. But many of the villagers are opposed to keeping the buffalo in Pui O because they fear that the animals' presence will limit the potential for development around the field. The Lantau Buffalo Association was formed in July to conserve the wild water buffalo in Pui O. Its founder, Marcus Tancock, the managing director of the Body Shop in Hong Kong and Macau, has lived in Pui O for more than 30 years.