Sunday, March 27, 2011

Buffalo attack (updated)

The Lantau water buffaloes are normally placid beasts used to humans so this attack by a rogue buffalo is very unusual. It's usually the case of them suffering at the hands of humans rather than the other way round.

I hope the authorities will allow the Lantau Buffalo Association a chance to do a thorough investigation as to why the buffalo charged first rather than cull all the animals as a "preventive measure".

From The Standard

'Spooked' buffalo gores beachgoer

Natalie Wong

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A young bull buffalo that gored and tossed a man visiting Mui Wo on Lantau Island may have been spooked by people trying to hitch a ride.

The man, named Li, left hospital yesterday after being admitted on Saturday with leg injuries.

Eyewitness Paul Melsom said the man had not provoked the animal.

But the water buffalo covered at least 30 meters of Silvermine Beach in charging at Li and his three-year-old daughter near the Wang Tang River at 7pm on Saturday.

Li, in his 40s, was gored in a leg and then hurled into the air and "tossed about like a toy," Melsom said.

"It was something you might see in a bullfighting arena. The man couldn't move. He was in a lot of pain and bleeding heavily from a deep gash in a thigh."

A Lantau police officer said Li was conscious after the attack, while his daughter was unhurt.

He was taken to a clinic in Mui Wo and then transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung.

Witnesses called an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department hotline to offer details of the attack. Ho Loy, director of the Lantau Buffalo Association, said it is highly unusual for water buffalo to attack people unless they are provoked.

"The attack might be associated with the repeated spooking of a pair of male buffalo aged about three years by groups of visitors earlier in the day," she said, drawing on accounts of people in the area.

"In particular, an unidentified individual was seen trying to climb on the back of a young bull.

"Buffalo of such age are active and sensitive to their surroundings because they are approaching full maturity."

Ho also linked the attack to development. Recent construction has reduced the beach area by half, she said.

This comes even as construction projects disturb Lantau's natural habitat, forcing buffalo from inner wetland areas to busy beaches.

Attempting to guard against more incidents involving the two young bulls that were on Silvermine Beach on Saturday, the association has arranged for a vet to castrate them this morning.

The association notes that the young bulls are among six stray buffalo around Mui Wo. All are the offspring of working animals abandoned by farmers in past decades.

Mui Wo Rural Committee vice chairman Cheung Chee-hung worries there will be more attacks.

He wants authorities to relocate the beasts. "Local residents are already fed up with the nuisance they cause - their excrement and problems for traffic when they stray on highways."

An AFCD spokesman said officers visited the scene and found four stray buffalo around the scene of the attack.

They could be rounded up if they appear to be a nuisance, he said.

There are around 200 buffalo in rural areas of Hong Kong, with about 70 percent on Lantau.

The photo and the statement is from the Lantau Buffalo Association:

LBA was deeply concerned to hear of the terrible incident on Silvermine Beach, Mui Wo last night when a member of the public was seriously injured by a male water buffalo. Our thoughts and best wishes are with him and his family for a speedy recovery. We would also like to express gratitude to Mui Wo resident Paul Melsom for his courageous intervention with vital First Aid.

Lantau residents have coexisted with Buffalo and Cattle for many years. It is highly unusual for water buffalo to attack humans and we are trying to find out what may have caused this individual buffalo to behave this way. We are investigating urgently and talking to vets, SPCA, AFCD and the police.

Since the mass cull of the Mui Wo buffalo herd in early 2007, a small group of just four or five male buffalo has survived in the Mui Wo area. There are no females, therefore no breeding has taken place. This means that there is no normal herd social structure. Nevertheless, there is no history of aggression in this group up to now, though it is reported that a new male has joined recently, which may have disrupted any emerging hierarchy.

Major drainage works and other construction activity in the area have greatly disturbed the Buffaloes' habitat in the last couple of years, causing them to roam far away from the inner wetland areas.

Mui Wo beach has been very busy with visitors recently, more and more of whom reportedly like to engage the animals. However, repeated attention from large numbers of people may cause them to panic. Another theory is that the animal in question may have been alarmed by a flash from a camera in the twilight. Further, the engineering works on the beach have reduced the open space by about 50%, making it a very crowded area. We would be grateful for additional information from anyone who witnessed the incident and can shed any further light on what happened.

LBA is currently undertaking a herd management programme in conjunction with SPCA and AFCD, desexing male bovines across Lantau, to humanely reduce breeding and testosterone, with the aim of minimizing potential for bovine/human conflict. All male cattle in Mui Wo for example have been desexed already.




Thank you
Lantau Buffalo Association


Email from Paul Melsom:

Hi all,
Please pass this on to your groups.
A warning for everyone to take care with the Water buffalo on Mui Wo Beach especially with young children.
This saturday evening (26 March) about 6.45 p.m. I and many other people witnessed a man (tourist) being attacked by a water buffalo on on Mui Wo beach; location where the Wang Tong Stream reaches the sea. The man did not provoke the water buffalo. The water buffalo charged him and his 3 year old daughter from roughly 30 to 40 meters away. He was lifted by the horns of the buffalo and his leg gored by one of the horns. He was hurled into the air and tossed about like a toy, several times. It was something you might see in a bull fighting arena. The man couldn't move, was in a lot of pain and he was bleeding heavily from the deep gash in his thigh. He was taken to hospital fairly quickly. Luckily his daughter was safe but it was a near thing for her too.
Prior to this two males were sparring further down the beach and one of these was the one that charged the man. It may just be this one individual that is the problem.
I like water buffaloes but the water buffalo experts need to follow this up before anyone else or a child is attacked.
regards Paul Melsom

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