Lantau rural chiefs defy govt with plan to oust cattle and buffalo

The ink is barely dry on the government’s long-term Lantau development plan, but one of its core principles is under challenge from rural chiefs in their latest attempt to expel cattle and buffalo.

The Sustainable Lantau Blueprint, issued in June, calls for the conservation of rural Lantau’s natural and cultural heritage.

It specifically demands the protection of the Pui O wetland, home to the local buffalo herd, which it acknowledges as as “part of [Pui O’s] cultural history” and an important means of showcasing Hong Kong’s rural history. It also seeks the preservation of Mui Wo’s “rural township character.”

However, the Islands District Council and local rural committees are once again lobbying the AFCD to remove Lantau’s remaining cattle and buffalo.

This time their plan is to shift them to Tai A Chau, an island in the Sokos with limited water supplies and no wetland that could support buffalo.

Despite this, the AFCD cattle team is understood to have told an October 12 meeting that the plan was feasible. However, they also said the idea was not practical because there was no way for them staff to conveniently reach the remote location.

The meeting, organized by the Islands District Council, was attended by Wong Man-hong and Fan Chi-ping – the heads respectively of the Mui Wo and Tung Chung rural committees – a member of the South Lantao Rural Committee, district councillor Randy Yu, LanDAC member Chau Cheun Heung, Bui O Public School principal Yu Mei Fong, Home Affairs Department officials and four representatives from cattle support groups.

One attendee told Lantau News the rural leaders argued that the move was necessary for safety reasons, although they were unable to explain why the buffalo posed a bigger safety threat than speeding traffic on EVA.

Despite the AFCD reservations, the rural councillors and Randy Yu urged the AFCD to go ahead with a trial.

The current effort to remove Lantau’s bovines is the latest of many.

In one notorious case in 2006, several dozen cattle were removed byAFCD truck to Fan Lau, but only three survived the journey.

In 2013, the AFCD experimented by swapping cattle herds between South Lantau and Sai Kung. One of the Lantau cattle died and many of the remainder, unable to food in the unfamiliar environment, had to be hand-fed. The trial was terminated after the department was hauled before a Legco sub-committee.

In the last two years the plan to remove the animals to Tai A Chau has emerged on a number of occasions, only for the government in each instance to deny it.

An online petition opposing the relocation states:

We believe that Lantau Island has absolutely sufficient capacity for the conservation of all cows and buffaloes. Any form of relocation out of Lantau Island is not needed. In addition, we demand the government to establish a long-term conservation policy, allocating resources to conserve them in their original habitats.

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