Hong Kong's Hidden Hunters

If you're in the New Territories and run across men armed with shotguns, don't worry.

It's just a hunting party out to bag a wild boar. Hong Kong has not one, but two civilian teams licensed to hunt feral pork.

Set up by the police in the 1970's, the teams help control the animals, which are considered environmental and agricultural pests. This year alone the teams have put down 52 wild pigs after receiving complaints from farmers.

Here are a few things you may not know about Hong Kong's untamed swine:

· An adult wild boar can reach up to 250kg (about 550 pounds) and could injure someone if interrupted while it roots through a vegetable crop.

· Sus scrofa is not a protected species in Hong Kong.

· Wild boar are omnivorous; their staple diet consists of roots, corms and fruit, and is supplemented with earthworms, insects and small invertebrates.

· Wild boar are predominantly nocturnal and have no natural predator in Hong Kong.

Members of the general public interested in joining the hunting teams must first pass a written and firearms test conducted by the Hong Kong Police. Applicants must then be licensed by the police to carry firearms and be licensed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to hunt.

Hunting only occurs when complaints about the pigs occur, and even then it doesn't mean one can go crashing through the bush shooting at will. Because people could be anywhere, the teams must first post warning notices in affected areas, and terminate a hunt on the spot if anyone is spotted in the hunting zone.

The system must work, because no one has bagged a human (known as the long pig by cannibals) by accident so far.

The only thing the AFCD hasn't mentioned is what happens to a boar's carcass after a successful hunt.

Perhaps the men with the guns get to have a clandestine boar-beque party for their troubles.

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