Animals Arts, Lifestyle & Events Hong Kong

In Pictures: Porcine pickle – Hongkongers divided over city’s emboldened wild boars

As Hong Kong prepares to celebrate the Year of the Pig, the city is facing its own peculiar porcine pickle — a furious debate about what to do with its growing and emboldened wild boar population.

Best known for its densely packed skyscrapers, Hong Kong also boasts large tracts of subtropical mountains and parkland that host a thriving number of Eurasian wild pigs.

wild pig hong kong

In this picture taken on January 25, 2019, an elderly man walks past a wild boar in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Park. Photo: Anthony Wallace.

And increasingly humans and pigs are meeting face to snout.

Embed from Getty Images

Boars have been filmed running alongside vehicles on roads, jogging down beaches filled with sunbathers, sniffing the tarmac at the city’s international airport — and even falling through the ceiling of a children’s clothing store.

Easy pickings from rubbish bins and open air barbecue pits as well as humans deliberately feeding them have enticed the wild animals to leave their trotter prints across a growing swathe of the concrete jungle.

The situation has some people rattled.

Embed from Getty Images

“They are dangerous to pedestrians as they rush down the hill. They pose threats to the older and the weak, hazards to traffic and hikers,” local councilor Chan Chit-kwai, who wants to see steps taken to reduce the wild boar population, told AFP.

“It’s not as easy as those people saying we can all just live in peace,” he added.

Embed from Getty Images

City authorities say the number of sightings and nuisance reports caused by boars has more than doubled, from 294 for all of 2013 to 679 for the January to October period last year.

Injuries have been reported. In October, two elderly people were bitten by a wild boar near a public estate while four months earlier two people needed stitches after they were attacked near the University of Hong Kong, local media reported.

The city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is now considering euthanising “high risk” wild boars that are deemed aggressive or have a record of attacking humans.

Embed from Getty Images

“In those cases, we would use drugs to euthanise the wild pigs,” conservation officer Cheung Ka Shing told reporters. The agency has also sterilised 54 wild pigs who regularly appear near urban areas and relocated 92 others to more remote locations.

Some local politicians have proposed more active measures such as introducing predators, legalising hunting and even relocating pigs to an uninhabited island — the latter idea getting short shrift given pigs can swim.

 ‘Not scared’ 

But many balk at harming the boars.

Embed from Getty Images

Near the entrance to Aberdeen Country Park on the main island, a wild boar family of three is snoozing under warm sunlight — a trio of elderly Hong Kong residents playing cards just a few meters away.

“I’m not scared. As long as you don’t poke them or throw things at them, it will be fine,” said 73-year-old Mr Fung, one of the card-players said.

Embed from Getty Images

“They have made the Aberdeen country park an attraction,” explained another park regular, 70-year-old Mr Lai, who said he encounters boars often while hiking.

“As long as you don’t attack them, they won’t offend you. It’s too brutal to kill them,” he added.

Embed from Getty Images

The AFCD said they do not have an estimate of the total population of wild pigs in Hong Kong but country park camera surveys have recorded an increase in number and a wider spread than 20 year ago.

Experts say the wild boars’ diet is 90 percent plant based and that they have no need to be fed by humans, who they would normally avoid.

Embed from Getty Images

“They shouldn’t come to people for food, nor to attack. Their aggressive behavior would be an act of self-defence,” said Chan Po Lam, a wetland and fauna conservation officer at the AFCD.

In the Aberdeen park a banner warns visitors not to feed wild animals.

But some ignore it. During AFP’s visit a man scattered pieces of white bread on the grass, soon drawing a thankful boar from the bush.

Embed from Getty Images

“I believe people feed wild animals out of kindness, but it encourages them to hang out in human communities more often,” said Chan.

Veronique Che, from the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group, says the animals shouldn’t be blamed for being more visible given the urban sprawl increasingly encroaches on their natural habitat.

“Many problems related to wild boars are actually created by humans,” she said.

Just down the road from Aberdeen Country Park is a public housing estate with residents waiting for buses on a narrow winding roadside.

Embed from Getty Images

The local boars have burrowed under a metal fence separating the forest from the housing estate to look in the rubbish bins for food.

As a group of boars appeared, locals took photos on their phones while children greeted their hairy neighbours with excited “oink” noises.

“There should be harmony between human and wild boars,” Che said. “Humans shouldn’t treat wild boars as threats, nor as pets.”

In Pictures: Porcine pickle - Hongkongers divided over city's emboldened wild boars