The Hong Kong government may relaunch a license scheme to allow members of the public to hunt wild pigs in a bid to control the boar population in urban areas, an official said. It came as animal rights groups urged the authorities to withdraw its catch-and-kill order

Staff from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) are set to operate five times a month to humanely euthanise wild boars which enter urban areas, the department’s assistant director said on a radio programme on Monday. He estimated that the strategy will cover 70 to 80 locations, with staff targeting boars that had attacked people before, or those that pose a threat to the public. 

wild boars
File Photo: Wild Boar Concern Group.

The culling strategy was announced last Friday, days after an auxiliary police officer was bitten by a boar in Tin Hau. It came under fire by 13 animal rights groups, which drafted a petition on Saturday to urge the AFCD to withdraw the policy, calling it “extremely unreasonable.” The petition had received over 44,000 signatures as of Sunday afternoon. 

AFCD Assistant Director Simon Chan said on Monday that the department has begun implementing the new policy, but no wild pig has been killed so far. it was “misunderstanding” that the current policy would eradicate the local wild pig population, he said, as the authorities would only tackle boars in urban areas, which are not scared of humans and often seek food from residents. 

“Some boars have become accustomed to appearing in urban areas… they will cause a nuisance and danger to citizens,” Chan said on an RTHK programme. 

wild boar attack
Photo: Facebook.

The AFCD assistant director said the government had made efforts in tackling the conflict between wild boars and the public, such as the trap, neuter, return (TNR) policy in 2017 and other public education programmes. But incidents of wild boar attacks are on the rise, Chan said, and the authorities decided to suspend the TNR strategy. 

Hunting teams

The government had issued licenses to citizens who formed two wild pig hunting teams in the past, but the arrangement has remained suspended since 2017. When asked if the government would relaunch the civilian hunting operations, Chan said they would not rule out any method to solve the issue. 

Speaking on the same radio programme on Monday, Roni Wong from the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group urged the government to immediately retract its culling order. He said most citizens who have encountered the boars would know that they do not attack humans unless they are provoked. The new policy is “inhumane,” he said, and it was launched without public consultation.

Wong said while some people thought the catch-and-kill strategy was devised following the police officer attack, the policy – in fact – had been discussed at the legislature before. He pointed at human feeding of boars and waste on the street, adding that citizens should reflect on why boars come into urban areas.

Wild boars no feeding
File photo: via. C.C.2.0.

In a joint letter addressed to the director of the AFCD, a group of wildlife experts and academics echoed Wong’s argument that wild pigs in Hong Kong frequented urban areas because they were accustomed to human feeding. Inadequate legislation and enforcement had exacerbated the “persistent feeding” of wild pigs by members of the public, they said.

“Whilst it is recognised that the majority of the public do not feed wild pigs, the consequences of the relatively few that do are significant, and thus sufficient resources must be allocated to stopping the practice,” the letter read. 

The experts – including those from the Hong Kong Veterinary Association and the ADM Capital Foundation – also asked the government to manage public and municipal waste in and adjacent to the habitats of the wild boar. Killing the boars is “not a viable long-term measure,” they argued, as it may create more conflict in society.

“[O]perations are difficult, dangerous and contentious to arrange shooting operations, even more so poisoning,” the experts said. 

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.