Local groups have launched a petition against relocating Lantau Island’s cows and buffalo to an uninhabited island south of Lantau.

The suggestion to relocate cows to Tai A Chau was brought up during a meeting between the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), concerned Mui Wo citizens, and Lantau conservation groups last September.

A cow in Sai Kung. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

After conducting a preliminary assessment, the department found that Tai A Chau was a suitable habitat for cows. But the plan was put on hold owing to lack of resources, according to lawmaker Kenneth Lau who asked a question at the Legislative Council in March.

In response, then-Secretary of Food and Health Ko Wing-man said it had no plans – at the time – to relocate cows to the island after considering the opinions of animal welfare groups.

However, according to the petition organisers, the plan was brought up again at a meeting on October 12 organised by the Lantau Area Committee. They said that district councillors and village representatives raised concerns that residents could be harmed in fights between buffalo, and put pressure on the AFCD to relocate part of the herd to Tai A Chau as part of a trial run.

Photo: SupportHK.

“With the government’s strong intentions to ‘develop’ Lantau Island, the cows and buffaloes – to them – are undoubtedly obstacles to be removed before any construction commence[s],” the groups said.

“We believe that Lantau Island has absolutely sufficient capacity for the conservation of all cows and buffaloes. Any form of relocation out of Lantau Island is not needed.”

It claimed that relocating the animals to Tai A Chau would leave them vulnerable to poachers from mainland China. It asked the government to establish a long-term policy to support them in their original habitats.

“In addition, we demand the government to establish a long-term conservation policy, allocating resources to conserve them in their original habitats. In the meantime, we deem it necessary for the government to allocate workforces to manage them on Lantau Island to ensure their safety as well as safety of the humans they interact with.”

The petition has been signed by over 2,000 people. Convenors included local cattle concern groups and activists, as well as the Save Lantau Alliance and the office of lawmaker Eddie Chu.

Since 2011, the AFCD had implemented a plan in Lantau Island and Sai Kung to relocate cows after sterilizing them in order to control their numbers and minimise their impact on local residents. The government also said in March that the AFCD is planning to relocate the cattle in Mui Wo to the hills at Tung Wan Tau in the district on a trial basis in order to minimise their movements in urban areas and the nuisance caused to nearby residents.

A dedicated task force of eight members was established in 2011 to manage stray cattle. As of February, the Cattle Management Team had captured and sterilised 26 cattle in Mui Wo, and 19 were relocated, including those who had been repeatedly captured or relocated. 

According to police records, there were a total of 17 traffic accidents involving cattle on Lantau Island between 2013 and February 2017.

HKFP has contacted the AFCD for comment.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.