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Wild boar

Tee off? I'd rather pig out on the green

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:00am

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Most golfers curse their dodgy swing, but on Kau Sai Chau's courses their problem is wild boar tearing up the fairways


Hong Kong's only public golf facility may be forced to close for a period because its fairways are being ripped apart by a marauding band of wild boar.


Every night about 20 boar dig up the two 18-hole courses on Kau Sai Chau, off Sai Kung, and there are fears the wild animals, which weigh up to 180kg each, might start attacking golfers.


Warning signs have been placed around the courses telling golfers to beware of the boar, and contingency plans are in place to immediately shut the course if they start foraging anywhere near the club buildings.


Even if golfers are not at risk, the damage may force the Hong Kong Jockey Club to temporarily close the course - designed by South African golfing legend Gary Player and opened in 1995 - if the damage to the turf cannot be repaired before the growing season ends in the coming weeks, officials say.


The crisis at the 450-hectare facility - visited by 1,000 people on most Sundays - is complicated by the fact police no longer allow traditional shooting teams to hunt wild boar in Sai Kung.


Officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department have given the Jockey Club a permit to put down traps to try to capture the boar. However, it says the Jockey Club must carry out the trapping itself.


Since the beginning of the year, the boars have ripped up 3 sq km of turf, snuffling around for tasty grubs and their larvae, which live in the soil underneath.


Each morning a team of repair workers patch up the damage from nightly raids, racing from the first to 18th holes ahead of golfers as they tee off.


A private contractor has been hired to capture the boars by putting out bait in cage traps. But William Yiu Yan-pui, executive director of the Jockey Club's charities and corporate secretariat, said the club might be forced to close if a solution was not found soon.


'The issue is not just one of playability, it is one of public safety,' he said. 'We now have an instruction to close the golf course if the boars start appearing around the administrative area.


'We need to do something because I don't want to get to the stage where I have to close the golf course, but if I have to I will. At the end of the day, the safety of human beings comes first.'


Mr Yiu said the golf club had sought help from the police and the department but it appeared their hands were tied. While they were able to give advice, they were unable to give any direct assistance, although three-way talks were continuing, he said.


Two bait-filled traps are now being put in place to try to capture some of the boars.


'The plan is that if we trap one, well, they are intelligent animals and word will get around,' Mr Yiu said. The traps are wire enclosures containing food scraps.


So far, golfers had been tolerant and sympathetic towards the problems, even though large stretches of fairway were being rendered unplayable every day, he said.


Only three holes have escaped damage so far. Damage began appearing in outlying areas of the course, but in recent months has gradually encroached more and more on the fairways, around bunkers and close to the greens themselves.


The general manager of the course, Kevin Yuen Kwok-wing, said the club had had problems with wild boar in the past but never on such a scale.


Hunting teams came out three or four times last year. Although no boar were shot, the visits seemed to drive the animals away.


Laying down poison has been rejected because of the large number of stray dogs living on the island. Fencing off the course is seen as a logistical impossibility.


Police stopped giving permission for hunting teams, who must be accompanied by police officers, last year after a team brandishing shotguns strayed to within 1km of people taking part in the Trailwalker event in Sai Kung Country Park.


'The [police] commissioner has decided that this responsibility lies completely with the agriculture department because it is an animal management issue,' a police source said.