Roaming buffalo and cattle have become a common sight in many parts of Hong Kong’s rural landscape. Once an important part of local agriculture, these sturdy creatures were abandoned by owners when farming in Hong Kong declined in importance some thirty years ago.
Subsequent offspring of these abandoned buffalo and cattle are doing well. Basic surveys have indicated a population growth of around 15% annually. AFCD estimates that there are more than 1000 stray buffalo and cattle in Hong Kong.
In recent times, these semi-feral, almost wild animals have also caused great debate within the community. The increase in the population of buffalos and cattle, coupled with Hong Kong’s continued rapid urbanisation, have forced bovines and humans into closer contact, resulting in an increase in the number of complaints against these animals.
Residents complain of traffic obstruction and the dung they leave behind. There are also safety concerns - males have been known to get aggressive during mating season or when they try to protect their herd.
Yet, there are many members of the community who strongly believe that these animals have a right to exist in Hong Kong's natural environment.
SPCA supports a cattle management policy that manages Hong Kong’s buffalo and cattle in a humane, effective and sustainable manner.
Since 2010, the SPCA has carried out low scale field operations to tag and surgically sterilise male cattle and buffalo. We have also assisted in AFCD’s field operations, including the field sterilisation of female cows and buffalo.
Concurrently, the SPCA is actively looking into alternative methods of cattle birth control, including the future possibility of immuno-contraception.
SPCA has also worked closely with concerned groups such as the Lantau Buffalo Association, The World Wildlife Fund (HK) and Sai Kung Buffalo Watch to lobby the government for a management policy that ensures that these buffalo and cattle populations will have a future in Hong Kong.
In December 2011, the AFCD announced that it had set up a specialist team to monitor, track, desex and relocate cattle and buffalo. Previous government policy was to send all nuisance cattle to the slaughterhouse.
Common name: Asian Water Buffalo
Scientific name: Bubulus bubalis
Habitat: Found mainly near marshes and rivers in Kam Tin and southern part of Lantau Island.
Diet: Grasses and vegetation growing near or in lakes and rivers.
They are usually found in herds of up to 20 animals, often with a dominant male and many females and calves.
They often have “mud baths”, submerging themselves in mud to rid themselves of insects. Their widely splayed hooves prevent them from sinking into the mud, enabling them to move easily through it.
Common name: Domestic Ox or Cattle
Scientific name: Bos taurus
Habitat: Found in many habitats across Hong Kong, including farming areas, grasslands and urban areas, except Hong Kong Island.
Diet: Grasses, stems and other plant material
Similar to buffalos, they are herd animals and may exist in herds of several individuals to more than 100. Each herd usually comprises of a dominant male, with females and calves.
Source: Shek, C.T (2006) Field Guide to the Terrestrial Mammals of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: AFCD, Friends of the Country Parks and Cosmos Books Ltd.