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LCQ2: Rodent control work
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 7):


     The territory-wide rodent infestation rate (RIR) for last year was 4 per cent, or a rise of one percentage point from the preceding year, with Sham Shui Po District and Mong Kok District (which yielded RIRs of 8.9 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively) being the districts most seriously plagued by rodent infestation. Despite the launch of a two-month anti-rodent campaign at small targeted areas in all districts across the territory by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) on May 8 this year, several residents of Kowloon West have still complained to me recently about rodent infestation in the district. Regarding rodent prevention and control, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it will review the effectiveness of the anti-rodent campaign being carried out by FEHD at small targeted areas, and adjust the territory-wide rodent prevention and control strategies; if so, of the details, including ways to step up anti-rodent efforts; whether it will launch the Keep Clean campaign regularly every year; if not, of the reasons for that;

(2) given that currently feral cats caught in the community by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will be euthanised if such cats are unclaimed or not adopted, whether the authorities will consider allowing tenants of dry goods and grocery stalls in public markets with serious rodent infestation to adopt the cats caught by AFCD which have been vaccinated and sterilised, so as to help eradicate rodent infestation; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the authorities will make reference to the following practice in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States: supporting community groups or animal welfare groups to deploy, in districts with serious rodent infestation, feral cats caught to form community cat rodent control squads to help address rodent infestation; and

(3) as some members of the public have relayed that the hygiene conditions are poor and rodent infestation is serious at the back alleys and nearby streets of some subsidised housing estates and private buildings, whether the authorities will further step up their inspection and cleaning operations at such places, and whether they will expand the powers and functions of District Councils and provide more resources to them, with a view to improving district environmental hygiene; if not, of the reasons for that?



     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) is very concerned about rodent infestation in individual districts, and has been adopting a multi-pronged approach, including cleansing, rodent elimination and enforcement, in the prevention and control of rodents. FEHD has been implementing a series of comprehensive measures targeting at rodent control. All methods and rodenticides deployed are tested and confirmed to be effective. The current integrated approach adopted by FEHD in rodent prevention and control by improving environmental hygiene, poisonous baiting and trapping are derived based on the recommendations and technical guidelines of the World Health Organization. Strategic deployment of poisonous baiting and trapping operations would be adjusted in accordance with the environmental condition of individual districts and behavioural characteristics of rodents. These methodologies are in line with other regions of the world.

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

(1) To further the rodent control work in respective districts, FEHD has since May 8 commenced anti-rodent operations in targeted areas, which would last for two months. District Environmental Hygiene Offices of FEHD would make reference to the results of Rodent Infestation Rate, complaint figures, suggestions from local residents, as well as number of licensed food premises and "3-nil" buildings to identify targeted area (covering several streets) and implement target specific rodent control actions. FEHD would also evaluate the effectiveness of the anti-rodent operations in targeted areas, including the rodent control situation in each targeted area, other problems and impact that might be brought about, views of local residents as well as cost-effectiveness, etc. in order to consider the need to extend the coverage of the operation to other areas of the district.

(2) There are views that most stray cats caught by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) are euthanised. In fact, the Government is committed to safeguarding animal welfare.  For stray animals without owners or left unclaimed, but are healthy and considered by AFCD to have a gentle temperament, re-homing will be arranged for them. As for animals that are sick, with a temperament unsuitable for re-homing, or could not be re-homed, the practice of AFCD is comparable to that generally adopted in many other countries, and is in line with the practice deemed to be necessary and humane adopted internationally.

     As regards the keeping of cats in public markets, it imposes certain risks from the perspective of both hygiene and infectious diseases. The cats so kept may spread zoonotic diseases, such as ecto- and endo-parasites and Toxoplasma gondii, through their excreta, which may also pollute the environment and result in food safety problems. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that all cats are given proper care, such as vaccinations and deworming on a regular basis. This will bring about animal welfare issues. Moreover, keeping cats in public markets will also affect the current anti-rodent strategy of FEHD: If there are cats, rodenticides and traps must be removed from the area to prevent cats from accidentally swallowing rodenticides or activating the rodent traps. This will affect the integrity of FEHD's anti-rodent strategy.

     Although cats have the ability to prey on rodents, their predation targets are not limited to rodents. Cats would also prey on other small mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.  Besides, excreta of cats would also cause environmental hygiene problem. 

     As for whether keeping cats in Hong Kong is effective in controlling rodent, including establishing and nurturing community cats to assist in eliminating rodent, this has yet to be proved empirically. We will, nonetheless, gather different stakeholders to look into such possibility, and study methods to minimise the environmental hygiene problems that might be caused as abovementioned.

(3) To prevent rodent infestation effectively, maintaining environmental hygiene and active participation of the public is crucial. It is important to tackle the problem at root by eliminating the three survival conditions of rodents, namely food, harbourage and passages, meaning respectively the elimination of food sources and hiding places of rodents, as well as blockage of their passages. On publicity and education fronts, apart from the broadcast of TV and radio Announcements in the Public Interest and display of posters on public transport, FEHD will collaborate with District Councils (DCs) and District Offices (DOs) of the Home Affairs Department (HAD) to organise community activities and distribute leaflets on rodent prevention and control to widely disseminate the anti-rodent messages. FEHD will also arrange health talks for building management offices of private buildings, persons-in-charge of food premises, and market and hawker stall operators to provide information and technical advice on rodent prevention and control.

     Different Government departments have all along been working under their respective purview to improve the environmental hygiene of the districts. In response to the needs of the districts and recommendations of the DCs, the 18 DOs of HAD would where necessary co-ordinate other relevant departments to take action and improve the environmental hygiene condition of the districts.

     With a view to tackling district problems which are long-standing, immense and difficult, and capitalising on local opportunities, the Government has allocated an additional $63 million from 2016-17 onwards to implement the District-led Actions Scheme (DAS). Upon thorough consultation with DCs, 42 projects were carried out in 2016-17, of which 11 were projects concerning operations to enhance the cleanliness in the districts.

     To further enhance environmental hygiene of the community and raise the residents' awareness, the districts will roll out a total of 12 projects aiming to strengthen the local environmental hygiene having regard to the local circumstances. In addition to the projects on enhancing environmental hygiene under DAS, the relevant departments will also carry out regular improvement work on environmental hygiene in the districts according to the actual circumstances of the districts concerned.

     Furthermore, there are committees and working groups under the 18 DCs responsible for handling environmental hygiene-related issues. They are responsible for monitoring the environmental hygiene conditions in the districts and will reflect their views on improving environmental hygiene and make recommendations to the relevant Government departments as appropriate.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:01
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