Hong Kong government clamps down on... the city’s wild boars

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It’s becoming more and more commonplace for Hong Kong residents to encounter wild boars, who are rapidly adapting to the urban environment. Concerned about increased confrontations between humans and boars, the government instituted a new policy on November 12 aimed at trapping and killing the creatures. Some people, however, are fond of the boars and want to find a way to peacefully cohabitate.

In one video, a large boar zigzags between pedestrians and cyclists in a residential neighbourhood. Another shows a small boar trotting past commuters in the city metro. Both of these incidents were filmed in Hong Kong in 2021 and the videos were posted on Twitter and Weibo.

Wild boars aren’t new to Hong Kong, a place where busy roads and skyscrapers often exist near natural zones filled with wildlife. But until recently, most of the city’s boars were found in the least urbanised areas – for example, the city’s outskirts, which border the forest that covers the mountains surrounding the city.

Not everyone is happy about this cohabitation, especially after a police officer was bitten on November 9 by a wounded boar. The officer, who responded to a call about a boar along with a number of agents from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), ended up in the hospital. Surveillance footage of the attack was widely shared by Hong Kong media outlets, reigniting a debate on how to manage the boar problem.

Over the past few years, there’s been a sharp increase in reports of human encounters with wild boars in Hong Kong. In 2018, for example, more than 900 complaints about wild boars were filed, three times more than the number recorded in 2013. In the past decade, the AFCD has reported that there have been 36 cases when a wild boar injured a human – and 30 of those cases took place in the past three years.

Two days after the policeman was injured by a boar, the AFCD announced a new plan for managing the growing wild boar population – they would trap, catch and kill those who wandered into certain urban zones.

Animal rights groups were up in arms after these measures were announced on November 12. Formerly, the policy was to capture an animal if it wandered into an urban area, sterilize it and then release it in another, more suitable area.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has also launched a campaign to ask people to stop feeding the boars. It’s true that an increasing number of Hong Kong residents have taken to feeding the animals, often because they think they are cute. The boars, in turn, are growing accustomed to human food, which is one of the factors bringing them into urban zones. Urban expansion has also been encroaching on their natural habitat.

On November 16, Carrie Lam, the governor of Hong Kong, said that she was planning on increasing penalties for people who feed boars.

The authorities first put the new extermination policy into practice on November 17. They used bread to lure seven wild boars into a large cage set up on a street in the city of Aberdeen, Hong Kong. Once they were captured, the boars were exterminated.

Animal rights organizations were outraged by this action. An NGO called the Group for the Defense of Wild Boars joined forces with the media outlet Animal Post to publish an open letter, which was cosigned by 15 other Hong Kong organisations. In the letter, they called on the government to stop this policy immediately. They also proposed alternative actions.

Wild boar don’t generally attack humans of their own accord (...) Has your department investigated the causes and details of the injuries inflicted by wild boar this year? (...)

This new policy (...) seems to suggest that the elimination of the wild boar is a question of survival without really considering if the wild boar have been aggressive to humans (...) Human urbanization has reduced the boars’ habitat so it is inevitable that they would go into urban zones.

There are a number of proactive ways to reduce the likelihood of conflicts between boar and humans, including sterilisation, to reduce the number or boars, education and laws banning the public from feeding wild boars.

A petition released in conjunction with the open letter had, on November 18, garnered more than 70,000 signatures.

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