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LCQ4: Animal release activities
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):


     Some environmental groups have pointed out that in recent years, animal release activities have become increasingly common and commercialised. However, as some animals became weakened or sick during transportation or sale, they died soon after being released. These groups have also pointed out that some people released animals at unsuitable locations or released animals which were not suitable for release, thereby not only endangering the lives of the animals concerned, but also damaging the local ecological environment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints received by the authorities in the past three years about animal release activities, with a breakdown by species of the number of animals released;

(2) as some environmental groups have pointed out that quite a number of people who release animals do not know much about the habitats necessary for survival of the animals being released and the potential impact of the released animals on the ecological environment, whether the authorities have measures in place to encourage the public to show mercy to animals in other ways; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) of the legislation currently in place to regulate animal release activities; whether it has reviewed the adequacy of the existing legislation for regulating industries engaged in animal release activities so as to safeguard animal welfare; if so, of the details, and whether it will follow the practice of Taiwan to introduce legislation to prohibit unauthorised release of any animals into the wild; if it will not, of the reasons for that?



     In recent years, some people have released animals for religious or other reasons. However, releasing animals improperly, including those into a habitat unsuitable for their survival, may affect their health as well as the ecosystem. The Government has all along been working with concerned animal welfare organisations (AWOs) in enhancing public education, with a view to raising the public's awareness of the potential adverse impact on both the animals and the environment brought about by animal release activities.

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

(1) In the past three years, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) received a total of four complaints related to suspected release of tortoises, freshwater shrimps and fishes. One of the complaints involved 60 to 70 tortoises while the number of animals released was not specified in the remaining cases. AFCD could not establish whether or not such activities had taken place after conducting site inspections upon receipt of the complaints. 

(2) AFCD and three organisations concerned about animal release activities, namely the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation, have jointly designed a poster for public education on the potential impact of animal release activities. The posters are distributed and displayed at various locations in the community (including markets, the Bird Garden, ferry piers, country parks and geoparks), and have been sent to over 50 religious organisations. The public is reminded to think carefully before participating in animal release activities, and to consider taking other virtuous actions, such as tree-planting, or voluntary services organised by the AWOs or green groups, etc. in lieu of animal release. It is noted that some AWOs have also been promoting to the public the potential adverse impact of animal release activities on animal welfare.

(3) We believe that it is important to strengthen public education so as to raise the public's attention to animal release, and advise them to think carefully before participating in any such activities. AFCD will continue to partner with AWOs in the promotion work on this front. The Government has no plan to regulate the operation of animal release activities or the related trades by legislative means at this stage.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:25
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