The government has said that around 60-70 cattle have been captured, sterilised and relocated over the past three years in order to control their population and reduce the nuisance caused to nearby residents. It has also defended the suitability of Sai Kung as a relocation site.

In a reply to a question raised by pro-Beijing DAB lawmaker Gary Chan at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said that, since 2011, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has been implementing a capture-sterilise-relocate programme for stray cattle. 

“Generally speaking, most of the relocated cattle have been in a good state of health since the launch of the programme,” she said.

Stray cattle near Kuk Po. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Chan was asked about reports that Chong Hing Water Sports Centre in Sai Kung – where the stray cattle are said to be relocated to – does not have sufficient grass and water, and cattle may easily be knocked down by vehicles. In response, she said that the location – with its 4,500 hectares of open space – has natural resources to provide adequate food and a suitable habitat in all seasons: “The cattle can roam around freely in the country park, and live with the feral cattle originally living there.”

“AFCD will review from time-to-time the sites for relocation of cattle to assess whether the habitat continues to be suitable for cattle,” she said.

Feeding strays

Chan said that the AFCD does not encourage members of the public to feed the stray beasts, as “stray cattle by nature forage in the wild” and “providing food for cattle may affect their natural behaviour and survival instincts, causing them to become reliant on human for food.” The cattle may also consume food that is inappropriate for them, such as meat, she added.

Chan also said that the government does not have statistics on the number of cattle that were injured or died in traffic accidents, but said “appropriate traffic signs are erected by the Transport Department at road sections where necessary to alert drivers of cattle.”

Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

Noting that concern groups have put reflective strips on some cattle, Chan said the government believes relocating cattle to spots with low traffic is a more effective measure in minimising traffic accidents. She also said that, following a detailed study on cattle grids, “it is considered that there are potential safety hazards to road users if cattle grids are installed on local public roads.”

Local groups have launched a petition against relocating Lantau Island’s cows and buffalo to an uninhabited island south of Lantau. They said that Lantau has sufficient capacity for the conservation of cows and buffaloes and relocation is unnecessary.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.