Liberal Studies: Hong Kong animal advocates point to sign of shrinking bovine habitats [February 20, 2019]

Compiled by Ben Pang
Compiled by Ben Pang |

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Cattle roaming freely among tourists in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.

Issue 1

Animal rights activists said the incidents reflected the plight of the island’s wild cattle who were suffering from habitat degradation and becoming increasingly accustomed to human feeding, which is illegal but only in certain country parks and protected areas.

Ho Loy, chairwoman of the Lantau Buffalo Association, said the cattle had been affected by changes to their habitat. 

“A lot of farmland has been turned into football fields or warehouses in recent years. The bulls simply do not have enough room to rest and not enough grass to eat,” Ho said, adding that some grassy areas had been polluted by illegal dumping of waste, which the government has failed to prosecute effectively. Ho, who had helped raise Billy over the years, said Lantau residents were “greatly saddened” by the news.

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Dr Leung Siu-fai, Director of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), said the bizarre incident in the supermarket in Mui Wo was rare and likely to be a one-off. Leung said the issue of feral cattle straying into city streets was unlikely to worsen thanks to a years-long neutering programme. “We’ve already neutered more than 500,” he said on a television show. “In the longer term, their numbers will stabilise, or even fall.”

Ho also said that, as the number of tourists and residents has increased, the wild animals have become less inhibited and gain accustomed to humans feeding them. She urged visitors to keep a distance from cattle and not to feed them human food. Feeding wild animals is only illegal in four country parks – Lion Rock, Kam Shan, Shing Mun and Tai Mo Shan – and the Tai Po Kau Special Area, making it hard to clamp down in other places.

Plastic pollution leads to death of beloved HK bull: Billy was found with two rubbish bins' worth of waste in his stomach

But Leung said offenders outside of  these areas could be prosecuted under  littering laws. He added that the AFCD was exploring options such as installing security cameras at 30 feeding blackspots to help the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department catch offenders. According to Ho, there are 26 cattle and about 10 buffalo in Mui Wo, down from more than 200 in the 1970s.

Question prompts: 

- How does urbanisation lead to wild bulls venturing into the city?

Do you think the AFCD has done enough to safeguard the habitats of wild bulls? Why or why not?

Edited by M.J. Premaratne

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Read Issue 2 here