Tue, Feb 05, 2019 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Hong Kongers debate fate of emboldened wild boars

AFP, HONG KONG

A wild boar holds a plastic lid in its mouth as it eats leftovers from a barbecue pit at the Aberdeen Country Park in Hong Kong on Jan. 27.

Photo: Reuters

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.

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