Pop star Coco Lee's mother had to undergo five hours of surgery for injuries she suffered during a wild boar attack near her Hong Kong home in The Peak neighbourhood, the singer's elder sister has told the Post.
Nancy Lee spoke of the pain and trauma that her 83-year-old mother Frances Wang had suffered, as she warned of the growing nuisance and even danger posed by a surge in the wild boar population straying into urban areas.
She accused wildlife authorities of negligence and failing to act on repeated complaints, but while the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it was aware of the incident, it denied receiving any other nuisance complaints from that particular neighbourhood.
However, a conservation expert warned the wild boar situation in Hong Kong was close to getting "out of hand".
Lee said her mother was on her daily walk on Thursday (Oct 7) morning last week with her domestic helper and two pet dogs near their home on Barker Road when she was attacked.
Wang was carrying a bag of dry cat food when the wild boar jumped out of the thick undergrowth and crashed into her, knocking her to the ground. The fall shattered her right elbow and fractured her right hip.
"I kept screaming, I was so scared of what would happen to Mama," Karni the helper said, referring to Wang.
Lee, who lives in the same building as her mother, said she was alerted by the helper who was in shock and shaking uncontrollably.
Paramedics spent half an hour at the scene trying to move Wang onto a stretcher as she was screaming in pain. The boar, which appeared to weigh "around 200 to 300 pounds", did not leave the scene the entire time.
Lee said her mother had to undergo double surgery, and was on a slow and painful road to recovery, with a medical bill of nearly HK$500,000 (S$87,000).
"It has been over a week and she is still unable to walk," Lee said.
The building management had called the AFCD on numerous occasions to lodge complaints, she said, as the wild boars often flocked to the area to root through rubbish bins next to the building.
She noted the "rampant overpopulation" of the wild animals in the area, and how they were no longer afraid of humans because hikers would feed them regularly.
"To have an elderly person having their well-being compromised … This has serious consequences. I am so shocked that the [AFCD] is this negligent," Lee said. "How many people have to be injured before they take action?"
An AFCD spokesman said the department was investigating reports of an elderly person being injured by a wild pig, but no boar was found at the scene during a site inspection.
The department had not received any nuisance complaints about boars at 41 Barker Road in the past two years, he said, adding: "A wild pig will be humanely dispatched if it poses a risk to public safety."
According to the AFCD, the number of sightings and nuisance reports of wild boars received in the first six months of this year was 562, up from 401 in the same period in 2020.
Wildlife authorities captured 286 boars in 2020, compared with 279 in 2019 and 197 in 2018.
In June, a wild piglet strayed into Quarry Bay MTR station, boarding two separate trains and giving railway staff the runaround to complete its journey from Hong Kong Island to the New Territories.
A viral video circulating last week showed a herd of about 20 wild pigs chasing after a taxi whose driver was suspected of feeding the animals.
"The boar situation in Hong Kong is getting close to being out of hand," said Paul Crow, senior conservation officer at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.
The boar habitat has shrunk in recent years due to increasing urbanisation of rural and wild areas. The boar population can double in 12 months, with the animals breeding once a year with an average of six piglets.
Passers-by feeding the wild animals had removed their natural fear of humans, Crow said, encouraging them to stray into urban areas and artificially boosting their population by providing them with enough food to reproduce rapidly.
"[By] feeding the animals, they are actually creating an unsustainable situation that will ultimately end in potential injury to people, and there may have to be culls of the wild animal if their populations get out of control," Crow warned.
After the suspension of hunting operations in 2017, the government launched a pilot programme to control the boar population by sterilising the wild animals, but that does not appear to have had much of an impact.
Crow recommended a combination of lethal and fertility control, reducing access to food in rubbish bins and a review of legislation on feeding wild boars to bring the population under control.
Currently, there are feeding bans regarding wild pigs in certain areas, such as Lion Rock and Shing Mun country parks.
The AFCD said its approach included reinforcing barriers at garbage bins and educating the public to stop feeding wild animals.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.