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LCQ10: Stray cattle

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 26):


     It has been reported that since November 2013, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has implemented a "Trap-Neuter-Relocation" pilot programme for stray cattle (pilot programme) to catch stray cattle dwelling in places such as Sai Kung and Lantau Island, and relocate them to other locations, with a view to controlling the stray cattle population in the long run. Some animal welfare groups have discovered that the health of some of the relocated stray cattle has deteriorated allegedly due to their inability to adapt to the new environment, and that some calves separated from their dams have lost a lot of weight abruptly and need to receive treatment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the objective, details and progress of the pilot programme, and the rationale for implementing the programme; whether it had made reference to professional opinions and overseas successful cases in formulating the programme; if it had, of the relevant information;

(2) whether AFCD had conducted district consultation before it launched the pilot programme; if it had, of the relevant information; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the respective numbers of female and male adult stray cattle and calves involved in the pilot programme; whether AFCD has performed neutering surgeries on such cattle;

(4) as some animal welfare groups have pointed out that the relocation of stray cattle by AFCD has caused the separation of calves from their dams, whether the authorities have looked into this situation; if they have, of the results;

(5) as it has been reported that some cattle have intruded into Ngong Ping Village to forage for food after the commencement of the pilot programme, whether it knows if similar incidents had happened before; and

(6) of the current health conditions of such cattle; as some animal welfare groups have pointed out that some stray cattle have developed health problems after being relocated, whether AFCD will terminate the programme and move such cattle back to their original dwelling places; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     Over the years, the issue of stray cattle has persistently been a matter of concern to the local community, particularly in the case of South Lantau and Sai Kung town. According to a territory-wide population survey on stray cattle conducted in 2012, there were around 1 200 stray cattle in the rural areas of Hong Kong. Since local stray cattle (including brown cattle and buffalo) are not wild animals, they fall outside the ambit of the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170). Nor are they regarded in the international arena as endangered animals. That being the case, upon receipt of complaints of nuisance caused by stray cattle in the past, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) used to act on them by deploying officers to conduct on-site inspection for catching and removing the stray cattle in accordance with the power conferred by the Pounds Ordinance (Cap. 168).

     In recent years, the views we receive from different sectors of the community on how best stray cattle should be managed are becoming more diverse. Cattle welfare groups and the local communities affected hold different views over the issue. For instance, some conservation groups believe that stray cattle are ecologically significant and should be kept in their original dwelling places and wild areas. Animal welfare groups also consider stray cattle to be part of the community concerned and as such should be protected and allowed to live freely therein. However, some road users as well as residents and farmers being affected are of the view that stray cattle should be removed because they cause obstruction to traffic, constitute a source of nuisance to environmental hygiene and the daily lives of residents, and may damage the crops at times.

     To enhance the management of stray cattle, AFCD formulated in late 2010 a long-term work plan with a view to striking a balance between minimising the nuisance to the daily lives of residents and protecting the welfare of the cattle. Without compromising the welfare of the cattle, AFCD is taking multi-pronged measures to control and reduce the number of stray cattle so as to minimise the nuisance caused to the community and the potential danger posed to road users and the cattle themselves.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) AFCD set up the dedicated Cattle Management Team in late 2011 to carry out a series of long-term management work on stray cattle. Under one of the management plans, AFCD officers would actively capture stray cattle, have the cattle sterilised and ear-tagged for identification, and then relocate them to a more remote location in the same district (the "Capture-Sterilise-Relocate" (CSR) programme).

     In implementing the CSR programme, AFCD found that many cattle would find their way back to the town centre or roads of the same district in a matter of days or weeks after relocation, and become a source of nuisance to the residents and road users again. Some cattle have been captured repeatedly for four to five times after being sterilised and relocated. This shows that the current choice of relocation paths and sites might not be entirely effective in abating the nuisance caused by stray cattle to the residents or reducing the danger to road users and themselves.

     Last autumn, AFCD came to realise that the number of stray cattle in Sai Kung District was close to saturation. This, coupled with the increasing number of construction projects in the district, resulted in the availability of fewer dwelling places for cattle leading to more cattle lingering on roads, significantly affecting the traffic. To reduce the traffic congestion caused by cattle and minimise the number of major traffic accidents involving them, AFCD has made reference to the suggestion made in the study report by an ecological consultant and commenced a pilot scheme under the CSR programme last November whereby some of the stray cattle repeatedly captured on roads are relocated to a farther away location in another district (cross-district relocation pilot scheme).

     Under the CSR programme, some cattle are fitted with collars with global positioning system (GPS) devices to allow AFCD to track their movements after relocation and study their movement patterns in unfamiliar areas. Besides, AFCD officers conduct weekly on-site inspections of the places to which the cattle are relocated. Preliminary findings reveal that most of the relocated cattle are in good health. According to the follow-up investigations by AFCD, most of the cattle under the cross-district relocation pilot scheme are still dwelling in the areas hitherto anticipated. The scheme also proved to be serving the purpose of easing the traffic congestion problem caused by stray cattle in the areas concerned. AFCD will continue to monitor the situation and keep in view the effectiveness of the cross-district relocation pilot scheme.

(2) AFCD has been engaging local communities, non-governmental organisations, district councils and rural committees, listening to their views and suggestions on issues related to the management of stray cattle. Upon its establishment in late 2011, AFCD's Cattle Management Team proceeded right away to lay on the ground work for the CSR programme. At the joint meeting of the chairmen of various rural committees of the Islands District held on July 3, 2012, AFCD briefed members on the progress of the CSR programme. The Department has subsequently discussed the matter with the parties concerned on different occasions. AFCD will continue communicating with stakeholders and take their views into account.

(3) From late 2011 to February 2014, AFCD has captured a total of 473 stray brown cattle (including those repeatedly captured) under the CSR programme. Since the launch of the cross-district relocation pilot scheme in November 2013, AFCD has captured 46 young and adult cattle as well as four calves accompanying their mothers, including 26 female and 20 male young and adult cattle, three female calves and one male calf. Of these cattle, 29 were relocated from Sai Kung to Shek Pik Reservoir on Lantau, and 21 from South Lantau to Sai Kung High Island Reservoir. All the captured cattle have been sterilised and ear-tagged for easy identification.  

(4) Prior to the relocation of any stray cattle, AFCD will conduct surveillance and assessment to ensure that they forage properly and are in good health condition. As calves cannot forage on their own, AFCD will not separate them from their mothers. The cattle involved in the cross-district relocation pilot scheme are those frequently found to have caused obstruction to traffic and have been wandering on roads.

(5) Based on their routine inspections, AFCD officers noticed that some cattle under the cross-district relocation pilot scheme had visited the area around Ngong Ping. If cattle are found lingering near Ngong Ping Market, AFCD officers would take appropriate actions to lead them away.

     About 10 cattle are noted dwelling around Ngong Ping and AFCD has previously received reports on cattle foraging in the Ngong Ping Market. In view of the situation, AFCD has put up publicity banners and posters in the area to enhance public awareness of stray cattle and remind members of the public not to feed stray cattle so as to minimise the gathering of stray cattle in Ngong Ping. AFCD will continue the CSR programme to tackle the issue of nuisances caused by stray cattle and to control their number.

(6) According to AFCD officers' weekly on-site inspections of the places to which the cattle are relocated, the cattle concerned are generally in good health. AFCD will continue to closely monitor the situation. AFCD plans to conduct a review of the cross-district relocation pilot scheme in six months' time (i.e. around mid-2014) to evaluate the impact of the scheme on the community and the health conditions of the cattle, as well as the effectiveness of the scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 15:47


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