Wild boars have been seen venturing out of the woods and into Hong Kong’s urban areas, ending up in residential buildings, shopping malls and even the airport in recent years. Last week the problem was even put to the city’s chief executive. Why are these animals rummaging through the city streets, and should we be concerned? Why are boars in the news? Last Friday two of them wandered into a barbecue area in Aberdeen Country Park, where local residents were grilling food. The animals first searched a rubbish bin for food and then passed between the barbecues, sniffing the ground. But not all encounters with the rogue animals are peaceful. In October last year two people, aged 65 and 75, were sent to hospital after being rammed and bitten by a boar at a public housing estate in Diamond Hill. And in July 2018, a 39-year-old woman was attacked by a boar near an exit of HKU MTR station, while another woman reported that her husband had been injured by a wild pig nearby, on Babington Path. The University of Hong Kong issued a warning to staff and students to be on the lookout for wild pigs. The problem was brought to the attention of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor during a Legislative Council meeting last Thursday, by Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, the lawmaker and chairman of rural body the Heung Yee Kuk. Lau urged the government to consider setting up a hunting team, or even introducing natural predators to kill boars. While Lam pledged that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) would come up with a plan to solve the problem, the department said wild pigs’ natural predators are beasts like lions and tigers, which would be too risky to introduce. Is the boar population growing? The number of wild boars caught in Hong Kong reached a five-year high last year. According to the AFCD, there were 679 sightings or nuisance reports of wild boars between January and October 2018, or 92 per cent of the 738 sightings in the whole of 2017. Some 129 boars were captured in 2018, up from 106 in 2017. Gary Ades, head of the fauna conservation department at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Tai Po said the surge was due to more passers-by feeding the animals. “The animals mistake feeding for a stable food supply and therefore become attracted to urban or residential areas in the vicinity,” he said, adding that the food source made them more likely to reproduce. “The boars become more unnaturally healthy. In other words, the females and the males get a new feeding source and so they produce more young,” said Ades. Why are the boars such a concern? “Because of the potential danger. There have been instances where people were attacked and others are worried that there’s going to be an incident some time,” Ades said. Official statistics show the number of wild pig sightings on Hong Kong Island alone rose from 98 in 2013 to 324 in 2017, the highest rate of increase among all districts. “Boars are wild animals, which means we do not know what will trigger their defence mechanism. It may be about attacking anything because it’s trying to protect its family. And it’s the people who are feeding them that are making the pigs more associated with people,” Ades added. Feeding problems for Lantau’s feral cattle worsened by tourist influx What are some of the proposed solutions? After the suspension of hunting operations in 2017, t he government launched a pilot programme to control the boar population by injecting them with a contraceptive. But there have been no signs of a population reduction. On Tuesday, Wong Kwok-hing, an Eastern district councillor of the Federation of Trade Unions, suggested captured wild boars be sent to uninhabited islands . But an officer from the AFCD said that would not work. “Boars are very good swimmers,” he said. The government says removing boars’ food sources is the most effective way of reducing their presence in residential areas and public facilities. In addition, an official of the department revealed that it had commissioned a tertiary institution to design a new kind of rubbish bin which would be more difficult for boars to knock over or break open for food. What should people do when they bump into a boar? In the event that a boar charges at you, the head of the Wild Boar Concern Group Yeung Kai-kuen said, to try to run uphill. If you’re unable to outrun it, then it’s best to find a hideout. He said only when the wild animals feel like they are being attacked, or are scared, will they become defensive. “So if it’s just minding its own business and walking around, you just have to be cautious. Slowly walk away while keeping an eye on the wild animal,” Yeung advised.