HONG KONG – They took the subway, strolled through crosswalks and were fed by local residents. But now the wild boars have finally gone a little too far for the Hong Kong authorities.
The rise in incidents involving animals, which have long roamed the hills and hiking trails surrounding the bustling metropolis, resulted in a police bite last week.
In response, authorities at the Asian hub are cracking down.
Authorities said they started the boar hunt on Wednesday evening with an operation that captured and euthanized seven boars in an area less than a half-hour’s drive from the city’s financial center.
The decision to use drug injections for the “humane shipping” of animals marks a departure from the past policy of capturing, sterilizing and moving them to remote areas.
The Hong Kong Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (AFCD) said in a statement that the previous approach had failed to “effectively control the nuisance from feral pigs.”
The number of injuries involving wild boars has increased in recent years, the statement said, with animals often roaming busy urban areas in search of food.
Authorities have long warned that the animals could pose a physical threat and carry disease, but locals have nonetheless welcomed a number of strange encounters with wild boars.
In September 2020, a group of four wild boars took a bath in the fountains near a bank of China in the main financial center. They have also been seen roaming in several other areas around Hong Kong. In June of this year, a small wild boar was seen relaxing in the seats of a subway car, apparently exhausted after a long trip.
Rogue animals aren’t always peaceful, however.
The policy change comes after a violent encounter last week in which a wild boar ran over a policeman and bit him on the leg. The boar then plunged to death from a residential parking lot.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam then spoke out, warning of tougher penalties for anyone caught feeding wild boars. “I understand that a lot of Hong Kong people love wetlands and nature,” she said at a press conference earlier this week. “However, we also need to protect public safety. “
Lam added that there had been around 30 cases of wild boars attacking humans. “We can’t just sit on our hands as things go wrong,” she said.
The city is home to around 3,000 wild boars, according to government data, and they are not a protected species.
And such incidents are not limited to Hong Kong. Pop superstar Shakira said in September that a pair of wild boars attacked her and snatched her purse as she was walking through a park in Spain with her son.
The Italian capital, Rome, also saw an invasion of wild boars that sparked a frenzy ahead of local elections earlier this year.
Animal rights groups have criticized the new campaign to tackle the threat of the boar.
The local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raised concerns in a statement on Facebook. Its members “condemn” the decision to slaughter wild boars, he said, adding that “a non-lethal approach to wildlife management is always preferred.”
An online petition has also circulated, co-signed by various animal activist groups, urging the government to withdraw its new policy.
Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group spokesperson Roni Wong blamed the local government for the roots of the wild boar problem. Wong said authorities had not allocated resources for the peaceful care of the animals, according to Reuters.
“Now the animals have to pay the cost,” Wong said.
Reuters and Associated press contributed.