Pig in the city: Hong Kong’s urban sprawl blamed for wild boars straying into the urban jungle

Wild boars never chose this way: animal experts claim fenced off new developments upset and confuse the pigs, leading them to wander into town - while illegal feeding by humans also lures them in

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 2016, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 10:55am

Increasing incidents of wild pigs turning up in Hong Kong’s urban jungle are probably the result of development projects and construction around country parks, says a wildlife expert.

Boars hate change and often panic when their environment changes, said Dr Gary Ades, who heads fauna conservation at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.

Last week a wild pig was found wandering outside the Conrad International Hotel in Admiralty before escaping into the wilderness. Another, possibly the same one, was spotted two days later in nearby Hong Kong Park, Mid-Levels. This time it was tranquillised and returned to the wild.

In the last two years the mammals have showed up in shopping malls, private housing estates and theme parks across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories.

Last May, one pig teased onlookers as a dozen police and animal control officers struggled to capture it in from a store in the Paradise Mall in Heng Fa Chuen.

Meanwhile in September 2014, a hunting party was called in to shoot and kill wild boar on the public golf courses in Sai Kung after the animals breached electric fences and damaged 44,000 square metres of turf.

Over in Causeway Bay, a wild boar invasion forced a children’s playground to close for three hours.

And in September 2013, two wild piglets enjoyed an adventurous day out at Ocean Park.

“They’re very funny animals … whenever there is change [in their environment] they just don’t want to be there,” said Ades. “They create these beautiful animal highways in the dirt, which they use to get around, but the moment a new tree is planted nearby there is confusion.”

READ MORE: Boar to be wild: pig leads Hong Kong police on five-hour chase

Wild boars do not respond well to confinement. A fence to separate a new housing estate from the hills often leads to pigs walking along them and getting channelled into urban areas.

Other possible reasons for their forays into town include regular feeding by humans – which is illegal – predation by feral dogs and even the weather.

Drier winters make it harder for pigs to get to the worms they feed on in the earth. Heavy rainstorms increase the risk of pigs falling into storm drains, from which they either swim or traverse out to the coast.

Ades believed more conflicts between humans and pigs in urban areas was likely given increasing rural development and a healthy boar population.

He said better education about the negative consequences of feeding wild boars would help. More police involvement and enforcement was another solution, such as the use of police dogs on patrols to keep wary boars at bay.

Wild pigs are the largest terrestrial mammals in Hong Kong. Adults can weigh up to 200kg and measure up to two metres long.

Males have tusks for digging up roots for food and fighting. Secretive and wary of human contact, they only become aggressive when provoked.

While many wild animals including squirrels, monkeys, pythons and bats are protected under law, wild pigs are considered pests and are not subject to legal protection, unless they are harmed within country parks.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said wild boars in search of food sometimes approached villages and urban areas.

The department received 509 reports or complaints about wild pigs last year, up from 408 in 2014 and 328 in 2013, a spokesman said.The department’s two hunting teams shot 29 wild pigs in the first nine months of last year compared with 17 in the whole of 2014.