Q: Do cattle and buffalo live in groups? How many in a herd?
A: Cattle and buffalo are, by nature, herding animals. This means they generally live in groups which may range from just a few to 20 or more animals. However, it is not unusual to see solitary animals – these are often males which have separated from the main herd and wander on their own.
Q: Why do some people complain about the cattle and buffalo?
A: AFCD receives complaints from different sources from time to time. These include local residents, farmers, road and park users, and other government departments such as Police, FEHD and LCSD. The reasons for complaint include the excrement produced by the animals which can cause smell and environmental nuisance, blocking local roads and disrupting traffic, and eating farmers’ crops. On rare occassions, there may be reports of buffalo or cattle causing injury to people or property.
Q: What should I do if I see cattle or buffalo?
A: Most of the time you do not need to do anything. If you see an animal which appears to be injured, sick or trapped, you can report it through 1823. Generally the cattle and buffalo will not pose a threat to humans, but it is important not to disturb them, and to be aware that such large animals are potentially dangerous if they feel threatened. Please don’t frighten them by sudden movements or noise, and don’t try to touch them or get too close. Please do not try to feed them. Make sure to control your pet dogs so they don’t upset or frighten the cattle and buffalo.
AFCD has been conducting publicity and education in collaboration with local NGOs about how to behave around these large animals. Pamphlets, posters and publicity on public transport in relevant areas give more information on this topic.
Q: The cattle and buffalo seem very docile and they don’t disturb anybody. Why does AFCD need to do anything with them at all?
A: There are still many areas in the rural parts of Hong Kong which provide an ideal habitat for these animals to thrive and reproduce. If left unchecked, the reproductive rate will result in population growth and the increased numbers tend to cause more problems such as those mentioned above, particularly if the cattle move from the rural areas to the more urban areas, looking for new places to find food. We want to have a stable cattle and buffalo population for public enjoyment without causing any problems to local residents. This means finding ways to limit population growth and sometimes moving the cattle from urban areas back into the rural areas.
Q: How will you limit the population growth?
A: This will involve using contraception or sterilisation techniques. At the moment, castration is performed on male animals, and a technique called “webbing” or “tubectomy” will be performed on female animals. Both of these procedures are performed by veterinary surgeons with appropriate anaesthesia and pain-relief. We are also hoping to introduce an injectable form of contraception which will last for a few years after a single dose. This will allow us to do more sterilisation in a shorter time, and also to treat animals in very remote areas where surgery is not feasible. All neutered bovines are ear-tagged for identification.
Q: How does relocation work? What stops the animals going to back to the previous location?
A: Relocation means moving cattle from one location where they have been causing some problems (usually in and around residential areas) to rural areas or country parks where they can live happily without causing any nuisance. We have already relocated many cattle particularly around the Sai Kung area. They are placed in a suitable habitat where they can find food, water and shelter. From our initial observations, some cattle do move significant distances and go to other areas after relocation, not always back to where they were caught originally. To obtain more information about their movements, the second part of the survey mentioned above will involve the use of GPS tracking to accurately monitor movements of herds. We hope that this will allow us to plan relocation sites more effectively and see if any other measures are necessary to stop the cattle from moving back to urban areas (e.g. using cattle grids).
Q: I heard that AFCD will move some animals to a Wetland near Yuen Long; is this true?
A: We have been talking to the World Wildlife Fund – Hong Kong (WWF) about placing some buffalo in the wetland area of Mai Po Nature Reserve. They already had 2 water buffalo there and found they are very beneficial to the wetland ecology. Recently we have placed 2 more buffalo in the Mai Po reserve, and there may be scope for a few more in the future. Please note that the wetland environment is not suitable for the cattle (these are not the same species as buffalo) and we have no plans to place any cattle in this location or any other wetland location. The project will only take a small number of buffalo so this will not significantly reduce numbers in the main herds in Lantau.
Q: What are cattle grids? How do they work?
A: Cattle grids are a type of barrier commonly used in other countries which are laid into the road surface to stop cattle from passing a point in the road, whilst still allowing vehicles to cross. They are generally not suitable for people to walk on, so normally they are combined with a gate if people need to pass the point on foot. Cattle grids will only be effective if the road where they are placed is the only point at which the cattle can gain entry to a certain area. Otherwise, the cattle will simply find another route to reach their destination. Thus, they would normally be used in conjunction with fencing or natural barriers. We are currently exploring the use of cattle grids in suitable areas in Hong Kong, and are liaising with relevant departments to discuss their use. As they may also affect pedestrians and cyclists to some extent, the use of cattle grids must be examined in detail and relevant authorities consulted before it can be implemented on a public roadway.
A Cattle Grid
Please also visit our "Background Information" section.
AFCD Cattle Management Team