'Capture and kill' lesser evil

Editorial | Mary Ma 16 Nov 2021

The wild boar dilemma facing Hong Kong comes as no surprise, but it was put aside when the presence of the creatures in urban centers did not cause too much of a disturbance to their human neighbors.

Unless scared or cornered, the boars would stay away from people.

Although this has been the ongoing view, last Tuesday's incident of an auxiliary police officer suffering serious bites to his calf and buttocks in Tin Hau was bound to upset the balance of the co-existence policy that has been in place since 2017.

The change is inevitable.

Wild boars used to be commonly sighted only near rural villages and their population was controlled by licensed hunts.

This policy was abandoned in 2017 following an outcry from animal rights campaigners.

Since then, the wild boar population has soared rapidly - partly due to the absence of natural predators and also partly because of people wrongfully feeding them.

The animal's regular intrusion into human areas is inevitable but undesirable.

The serious injury to the officer served as a wake-up call that the present approach has to change. It appears the number of wild boars may have grown disproportionately to make the human-boar neighborhood no longer suitable.

I don't believe the animals are dangerous if given enough space of their own, nor do I think humans want to kill them out of dislike.

But the Tin Hau incident proved it is necessary to create a wider buffer to separate the two neighbors if we don't want to see another serious injury happening somewhere again in Tin Hau or other urban centers like North Point and Shau Kei Wan.

But a resumption of licensed hunts as suggested by some is not the way forward.

On the one hand, it goes against government policy of strictly controlling firearms; on the other, it is not feasible to conduct such hunting in urban areas where the wild boars are sighted most these days.

The solution proposed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department may offer the lesser of two evils - setting traps in urban districts to capture the wanderers first and killing them later.

It might be argued that they could be released after being caught - but the question is where, as rural areas are now also populated.

Although about 40 percent of Hong Kong is covered by country parks, the frequent sighting of wild boars in urban centers - and occasionally on MTR foyers - shows these animals have been moving away from forests towards the city for food.

For the "capture first and kill later" policy to be less controversial, the AFCD should give clear guidance on what to do with the wild boars found in urban areas to make sure the program is humanely implemented.

For example, would sows with piglets be treated differently from others?

While the public has no strong opinions on the need to control the wild boars' exploding population, an open policy with guidance is preferred.

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