One for all or all for one: can Hong Kong co-exist with the wild?

While the secret hiking trail of Lei Tung can be a hidden gem and a relaxing getaway for the weekend, for many others, nature is not always all fun and games.

Man received 5 stitches after wild boars attack; cow in Pui O died with stomach full of plastic; monkeys robbed another hikers’ food… In a more recent case, a man was attacked by wild boars after hurling stones at them. These unpleasant incidents are just the tip of the iceberg of the constant conflicts between men and the nature in this compacted city.

One for all, all for one

For a long time in human history, people have – and many still do – let ourselves sit in the center of the world and make the environment work around us. This is the anthropocentric (also called egocentric) mentality.

We humans often attempt to reshape and alter the environment at will. We clear pieces of land to build houses for our own kind. We channelize rivers and build dams to control the water flow. We spray insecticide in urban parks so that we are free from mosquito bites.  Sometimes we are so used to controlling the environment that we even forget human are merely one single member of all species.

And for a long time, there was seemingly no backlash for fondling with the environment. When the industrial revolution commenced in the western world in 1700s, the factories were making tons of air-borne pollutants, but there was plenty of room to buffer in the atmosphere. Hydraulic cement became popular and cities pushed further into the forest. One could catch as many fish as one wished. Mining companies could dig deeper and find new mines. Trees were sheets of gold. We thought we could exploit the environment forever – until we couldn’t anymore.

While the White House is still in denial about global warming, the rest of the world is becoming increasingly aware of climate change and the fact that humans cannot always contain nature after all. In order to co-exist sustainably, humans need to revolve around nature, and not the other way around.

Man vs Wild

Back to Hong Kong, this warm winter may or may not be associated with climate change, but we can still see other signs of the environment telling us how it is not to be tamed.

Wild boar, for example, is a growing topic in Hong Kong. As there are more habitat disturbances and humans feeding the wild boars, these wild boars are becoming more habituated to humans and therefore coming in closer than before.

According to statistics by The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), there were more than 900 sightings and nuisance reports related to wild boars in 2018, which is more than double the cases in 2014. Injury cases by wild boars also shot up from zero in 2014 to seven cases in 2018.

Feeding animals, like mercy release, is considered an animal- and nature-loving act in traditional Chinese culture. However, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions – providing extra food sources to wild animals actually leads to abnormal population changes and hence disrupted ecosystem equilibrium. Feeding of wild boars is ultimately, although unintentional, another example of humans trying to take the wheel of nature.

Men and wild boars

In the case of wild boars, AFCD used to have two hunting teams that were responsible for controlling wild boars by shooting. But their license had terminated last month and was not renewed after facing public criticism in recent years.

Instead, AFCD is now taking one step forward. It has now been educating citizens the consequences of feeding wild animals and also conducting a sterilization program on wild boars. Last year, 54 wild boars were sterilized for population control, according to an HK01 report.

Although these relatively peaceful approaches are a slow process, they go to show that the government is reevaluating the position and stance it should take while handling nature.

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