Hong Kong Journal: Towering, Teeming Hong Kong — Exactly where the Buffalo Roam

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A cow on a Hong Kong street final week. As several as 1,000-odd feral bovines, as effectively as monkeys, pythons and other animals, live in the city. Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Occasions

HONG KONG â?? A water buffalo grazes in a lush open field, an egret standing sentinel on its back. A herd of wild cattle bathes in the sunshine along the side of a winding road.

Two idyllic rural scenes, noticed nearly every single day.

In Hong Kong.

This is a location known for its urban superlatives. There are far more skyscrapers right here than anywhere on the planet. Most residents reside in tiny apartments, a lot of stacked atop sprawling buying malls, which in turn are piled on leading of subway stations. With an area about the size of Luxembourg, Hong Kong is constantly reclaiming land from the sea, creating more space for its 7.two million folks.

But there is an additional side to this former British colony. A wild side. Most of Hong Kong is not an urban jungle, but rather a genuine one, teeming with monkeys, Burmese pythons, barking deer, wild boars and 14 sorts of venomous snakes (eight of which, including the king cobra, are lethal to humans). About 3-quarters of the land right here is countryside, mainly mountainous terrain and considerably of it protected as parkland.

Rice paddies once dotted the lowland places, where for generations cattle and water buffalo plowed the swampy land. By the 1970s, when Hong Kongâ??s economic boom and soaring land prices created farming significantly less eye-catching and uneconomical, most of the work animals had been abandoned.

They seem to have accomplished just fine.

As several as 1,000-odd feral bovines â?? mainly cattle but also water buffaloes â?? remain. Although a lot of make their homes deep inside the country parks, other people reside close to men and women, grazing at bus stops, occasionally raiding gardens and blocking traffic.

This month, an immense, horned water buffalo surprised students by running alongside them in a cross-nation race. For several residents venturing outdoors the cityâ??s urban core, cattle are the initial wild animals they encounter.

Animal-rights advocates say the cattle have helped bring a sea adjust in attitudes toward wildlife in recent years, both among the populace and the government. A decade ago, the animalsâ?? future looked uncertain as developers, specifically on Lantau Island, residence to the cityâ??s airport and Disneyland, pushed the government to take away them to clear land for new homes.

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Several cattle, which are not a protected species, were slaughtered, and the herds on the island had been on the verge of being eliminated, mentioned Ho Loy, who leads the Lantau Buffalo Association.

â??It was just like a war,â? stated Ms. Ho, whose group seeks to preserve the islandâ??s cattle and buffalo.

Now, the Hong Kong government agency in charge of managing wildlife is functioning to preserve the cattle, monitoring their health, tagging them, tracking some with GPS collars, and performing selective sterilizations to keep their numbers in verify. Considering that the agency, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Division, set up its cattle management group in 2011, far more than 300 animals have been sterilized, it mentioned in an emailed response to queries.

Volunteer groups like Ms. Hoâ??s, as nicely as related organizations in other parts of Hong Kong, function closely with the government and the public to defend the animals and deal with complaints.

The beastsâ?? higher profile has given rise to a new breed of residents: urban cowgirls.

Karina Oâ??Carroll, 32, is one particular of them. As a founder of Sai Kung Buffalo Watch, she requires calls from the public at all hours, responding to reports of cattle blocking roads, and protests from folks annoyed by piles of steaming cow patties. All in an work to keep bovine-human harmony.

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Cattle in the Sai Kung district of Hong Kong last week. Several remain deep in the city’s nation parks, but others live close to people. Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Occasions

â??We have gone to choose up poo to appease men and women,â? she mentioned, explaining to them that â??itâ??s the very best point for your gardens and your plants.â?

Ms. Oâ??Carroll does not have a lasso. She has located that the ideal way to shoo cattle off the road is to jingle some automobile keys â?? they will move away from the sound. Failing that, splash them with water. And though she does not carry a six-shooter, she does on occasion fire antimaggot medication at their hindquarters.

â??They donâ??t like the sound of sprays,â? she says. â??Youâ??ve got a single shot, and then theyâ??re gone.â?

Ms. Ho is much more of a cow whisperer, talking to the animals in a soothing voice to make them move off the roadway, out of harmâ??s way.

Each females are helped by scores of volunteers, as interest in the cattle grows. The government now sees the animals as less of a nuisance and far more of a tourist attraction.

â??The division recognizes that the cattle and buffalo are element of the heritage of rural Hong Kong and that it brings pleasure to visitors and locals alike to see these animals in a natural environment,â? the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department says on its web site.

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Cows are far and away the most widespread wild animal seen in Hong Kong, but encounters with other creatures also take location as the city expands and people venture into the wilderness.

In May, a wild boar entered a shopping mall on Hong Kong Island,

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