Hong Kong culls wild boar after police officer attack

A man walks past a wild boar in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Park in a file photo.

More than 300 veterinarians, animal nurses, and student vets have lodged a protest over the mass culling of wild boar in Hong Kong after one of the formerly protected animals attacked a police officer.

A petition calling on the city’s government to abandon its mass cull of boar and return to its earlier capture-and-relocation strategy had garnered around 350 signatures on Monday, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

The campaigners are calling on the city’s agriculture, fisheries and conservation (Ag & Fish) department, which began euthanizing wild boar by injection on Nov. 17, to use contraception to keep the wild pig population down instead, it said.

According to the department, the boar have made a habit of of wandering along the Shum Wan Road in search of food, prompting officials to to capture and relocate 35 boar to remote locations, and to sterilize 27 of them.

“However, capture and contraception/relocation operations could not effectively control the wild pig nuisance,” the department said in a statement.

“A large group of wild pigs continued to wander and gather at the site, posing threats to members of the public and road users.”

Instead, officials had begun killing the boar by dart gun, to reduce numbers, it said.

The cull is in sharp contrast to previous strategies, which usually involved peaceful coexistence despite occasional media stories of boar attacks, or invasions of urban spaces and buildings.

But the policy appeared to change abruptly after an auxiliary police officer was attacked in North Point at the beginning of November, with the agriculture and fisheries department switching to euthanasia as a preferred method for dealing with the animals.

According to Ag & Fish official Simon Chan, the cull has set a target for the number of animals to be killed in five operations planned in the next few weeks covering 70-80 known feeding areas.

The department was recently found to have been inflating the attack figures, claiming that around 10 occur every year, retracting the figure after journalists said the average number of injuries is actually eight per annum.

Wild boars have now been deleted from a list of protected species on the Ag & Fish website, in what Chan described as the correction of a previous error.

No chance of error

Mak Chi-ho, who heads the Non-Profit Veterinary Services Association, said there was no possibility that any error had been made regarding the boars’ protected status, however.

“I’ve never seen the government be that careless,” Mak told RFA on Monday. “Actually there is a documented record of everything, and no possibility for error.”

“There were several mistakes in the numbers … and they don’t seem to be taking responsibility; I think this is a bit strange,” Mak said.

Mak said many more measures could be tried, such as replacing trash cans with boar-proof rubbish bins, and feeding them in remote locations to prevent them coming into more urban areas looking for food.

“There are five or six different ways they could do this, and they can’t say that the sterilization program isn’t working after just two or three years,” he said. “That’s very unfair [on the boar].”

“They can’t just rely on a single measure,” he said.

A turnaround in attitude

The cull seems to mark a total turnaround in Ag & Fish’s previous attitude to the creatures, which were once the subject of educational activities like “Wild Boar Adventure,” which taught children aged three to 12 as recently as May 2021 how to stay safe around the animals.

The department also made a public information film in February 2019 telling people to give boars plenty of space and never to feed them.

The Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) condemned the cull in a Nov. 17 post to its Facebook page.

“The SPCA reinstate that a non-lethal approach to wildlife management is always preferred, and is against the idea of hunting boars as this proved to be problematic on several fronts,” the group said.

“The SPCA have expressed our concern and disagreement with this approach but to date our voice has been ignored and not been addressed.”

“If you see wild boar, keep your distance, don’t interfere with them, and don’t feed them, and they will leave of their own accord,” the video told residents.

Since 2017, Ag & Fish has also run a mass sterilization and relocation problem in the bid to keep down the number of wild boar, which are believe to number from 1,800 to 3,300.

Officials told the Legislative Council (LegCo) environmental affairs committee in June that more than 800 boar had been captured in this way, while around one in four had been sterilized by the end of March, and 610 relocated to remote rural areas far from residential buildings.

“These relocation operations immediately alleviate the public nuisance caused by wild boar,” according to a document released by the committee on June 28, 2021. It quoted an Ag & Fish official as saying the sterilization program will also have an effect on the boar population in the mid-to-long-term.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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