A new round-up of wild cows on Lantau may spark fresh debate in the island community about the animals' future. Beth Sykes, a Mui Wo resident, was walking down Mui Wo Road on Friday morning when she spotted several water buffalo and cows, some of them pregnant, lying on their sides on a road leading to the villages of Tai Tei Tong and Pak Ngan Heung. The animals' feet were tied up and the cows were looking dazed and distressed, possibly because they had been tranquillised. Two vans belonging to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department were parked nearby. Ms Sykes said that after persistent questioning, she got a department official to confirm the cows would be auctioned, and most were likely destined for the slaughterhouse. 'It is tragic and a cruel deal for the animals, as they are part of the rural community here,' she said. 'I understand the wild cows are making the roads dirty with their excrement and are trampling on farmland, which infuriates the local villagers. But there are less drastic measures to deal with the cows.' Ms Sykes said the operation started on Thursday, with small calves being rounded up initially. That frightened the adult cows, who began wandering on the roads and blocking traffic. Ms Sykes said there are better solutions than slaughtering the animals. 'As a short-term solution, they could herd the cows back to the hills,' she said. 'For long-term solutions, they could sterilise the bulls so that they have no [ability] to breed, or have an area cordoned off [for] the animals specifically.' Ms Sykes said the latest round-up could serve as an impetus to reinvigorate the campaign to preserve the animals on the island. No one at the department was available for comment last night. According to local animal experts, there are currently around 70 buffalo and 60 cows on Lantau.