As Hong Kong welcomes the Year of the Pig, the territory is facing its own peculiar porcine pickle — a furious debate about what to do with its growing and emboldened wild boar population.
Best known for its densely packed skyscrapers, Hong Kong also boasts large tracts of subtropical mountains and parkland that host a thriving number of Eurasian wild pigs.
And increasingly humans and pigs are meeting face to snout. Boars have been filmed running alongside vehicles on roads, jogging down beaches filled with sunbathers, sniffing the tarmac at the territory’s international airport — and even falling through the ceiling of a children’s clothing store.
Easy pickings from trash cans and open air barbecue pits as well as humans deliberately feeding them have enticed the wild animals to leave their trotter prints across a growing swathe of the concrete jungle.
The situation has some people rattled.
“They are dangerous to pedestrians as they rush down the hill. They pose threats to the older and the weak, hazards to traffic and hikers,” said Central and Western District Council Chan Chit-kwai (陳捷貴), who wants to see steps taken to reduce the wild boar population.
“It’s not as easy as those people saying we can all just live in peace,” he added.
Authorities say the number of sightings and nuisance reports caused by boars has more than doubled, from 294 in 2013 to 679 from January to October last year.
Injuries have been reported. In October, two elderly people were bitten by a wild boar near a public estate, while four months earlier two people needed stitches after they were attacked near the University of Hong Kong, local media reported.
Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is now considering euthanizing “high risk” wild boars that are deemed aggressive or have a record of attacking people.
“In those cases, we would use drugs to euthanize the wild pigs,” conservation officer Cheung Ka Shing told reporters.
The agency has also sterilized 54 wild pigs who regularly appear near urban areas and relocated 92 others to more remote locations.
Some local politicians have proposed more active measures such as introducing predators, legalizing hunting and even relocating pigs to an uninhabited island — the latter idea getting short shrift given pigs can swim. -
However, many balk at harming the boars.
Near the entrance to Aberdeen Country Park on the main island, a wild boar family of three is snoozing under warm sunlight — a trio of elderly Hong Kong residents playing cards just a few meters away.
“I’m not scared. As long as you don’t poke them or throw things at them, it will be fine,” said one of the card players, a 73-year-old man surnamed Fung.
“They have made the Aberdeen country park an attraction,” said another park regular, a 70-year-old man surnamed Lai. who said he encounters boars often while hiking.
“As long as you don’t attack them, they won’t offend you. It’s too brutal to kill them,” he added.
The AFCD said it does not have an estimate of the total population of wild pigs in Hong Kong, but country park camera surveys have recorded an increase in number and a wider spread than 20 year ago.
Experts say the wild boars’ diet is 90 percent plant based and that they have no need to be fed by humans, who they would normally avoid.
“They shouldn’t come to people for food, nor to attack. Their aggressive behavior would be an act of self-defense,” said Chan Po Lam, a wetland and fauna conservation officer at the AFCD.
In the Aberdeen park a banner warns visitors not to feed wild animals.
However, some ignore it. During AFP’s visit a man scattered pieces of white bread on the grass, soon drawing a thankful boar from the bush.
“I believe people feed wild animals out of kindness, but it encourages them to hang out in human communities more often,” Chan said.
Veronique Che, from the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group, said the animals should not be blamed for being more visible given the urban sprawl increasingly encroaches on their natural habitat.
“Many problems related to wild boars are actually created by humans,” she said.
Just down the road from Aberdeen Country Park is a public housing estate with residents waiting for buses on a narrow winding roadside.
The local boars have burrowed under a metal fence separating the forest from the housing estate to look in the trash cans for food.
As a group of boars appeared, locals took photos on their phones while children greeted their hairy neighbors with excited “oink” noises.
“There should be harmony between human and wild boars,” Che said. “Humans shouldn’t treat wild boars as threats, nor as pets.”
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,