EJ Kim
Now playing
01:20
Hong Kong is being overrun by wild boars
screengrab china shenzhou 12 launch
CCTV
screengrab china shenzhou 12 launch
Now playing
01:59
See Chinese rocket launch to send astronauts to its space station
Host TV
Now playing
07:15
'What are you so afraid of?': Journalist presses Putin on political opposition
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces questions from reporters after his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.
Host TV
Russian President Vladimir Putin faces questions from reporters after his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now playing
04:44
Putin faces question about cyberattacks against the US
CNN's Christiane Amanpour provides analysis following a summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
CNN
CNN's Christiane Amanpour provides analysis following a summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Now playing
01:59
Amanpour: Biden did something very different than Trump
President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at the 'Villa la Grange', in Geneva, Switzerland.
Patrick Semansky/AP
President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, at the 'Villa la Grange', in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now playing
02:55
Ward describes 'uncomfortable' photo op between Biden and Putin
biden putin summit us russia press pools clash collins sot vpx_00012417.png
biden putin summit us russia press pools clash collins sot vpx_00012417.png
Now playing
01:40
Collins: 'Combative exchanges' between Russian and US press corps
Pool
Now playing
02:49
See Biden and Putin shake hands as summit begins in Geneva
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:58
Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza over incendiary balloons
China successfully launched the first module of its planned space station from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration.
CCTV
China successfully launched the first module of its planned space station from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, according to the China National Space Administration.
Now playing
01:04
See China's last rocket launch to send in space key component of its space station
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - MARCH 18: A view of daily life in part of street on March 18, 2021 in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic.  Most of the population in Bangui live well below the poverty line, in a country traumatised by years of unrest. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Getty Images)
Siegfried Modola/Getty Images
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - MARCH 18: A view of daily life in part of street on March 18, 2021 in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic. Most of the population in Bangui live well below the poverty line, in a country traumatised by years of unrest. (Photo by Siegfried Modola/Getty Images)
Now playing
06:12
Russian mercenaries accused of atrocities in the Central African Republic
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
PLA Air Force/Weibo
Taiwan has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic US-China war. The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. CNN's David Culver reports.
Now playing
04:04
Dramatic videos show Chinese naval exercises amid rising tensions over Taiwan (April 2021)
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Zhou huadong/Imaginechina/AP
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Now playing
03:30
Concerns over possible leak at nuclear plant in southern China
screengrab japan lonely death
CNN
screengrab japan lonely death
Now playing
04:04
Inside Japan's growing 'lonely death' clean-up service
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Former ally replaces Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister
CCTV via AFP
Now playing
01:54
Video of explosion aftermath in China shows a harrowing picture
CNN —  

Last May, Australian Liz Walsh, her husband and their 2-year-old twins, moved into a 30-story apartment block in an upmarket residential area near Hong Kong’s financial and business district.

A few weeks ago, the family encountered some unusual neighbors: a trio of wild boars.

Liz Walsh's new neighbors.
Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh's new neighbors.

The boars now regularly wander along the road that leads to the Walsh’s apartment complex, nap in a favored spot beside a nearby footpath and hang out in the local playground.

“They’re super tame and friendly,” says Walsh, but adds that she always keeps a watchful eye on them when she has her twins in tow.

Encounters like hers are becoming a regular part of Hong Kong city life.

The number of boar sighting and nuisance reports has more than doubled in the past five years, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

The beasts, which can weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds) and can reach up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length, have recently run amok in Hong Kong’s financial district, roamed among airplanes at Hong Kong International Airport and wreaked havoc in a shopping mall.

Police trying to capture a boar in Hong Kong's financial district in 2017.
AVN/TVB
Police trying to capture a boar in Hong Kong's financial district in 2017.

Jungle in the concrete city

Hong Kong is renowned for its dense urban areas and dazzling skyscrapers. But less than 25% of its land has been developed, and country parks and nature reserves make up 40% of the territory.

Most of the development on Hong Kong Island is confined to a coastal strip.

Almost all the development on Hong Kong Island is squeezed into a narrow strip of usable land around its perimeter. For residents here, it is only ever a short step from the concrete jungle to the subtropical rainforest that flourishes on the steep, rocky hills of the interior.

Thanks to this, snakes, monkeys and porcupines are all spotted in residential areas.

In the 20th century, tigers still prowled parts of Hong Kong, but since they died out, the largest wild animal found here is the boar – a native wild pig.

While nobody knows how many boars there are in Hong Kong, a spokesperson for the AFCD said that a survey is planned.

A group of boars out for a stroll in Hong Kong.
Paolo Sala
A group of boars out for a stroll in Hong Kong.

What is clear is that the boars – which were once solitary and secretive – are starting to lose their fear of people.

Rachel Duffell is a runner who frequently encounters boars on trails near her home in Quarry Bay, an urban district on Hong Kong Island.

When she started running in Hong Kong, in 2012, she rarely encountered boars. If she did, they would retreat but now, “even if I clap and shout, they often just keep coming towards me and I’m the one to turn and run in the opposite direction,” she says. “My fear is clearly greater than theirs.”

Are the boars dangerous?

There have been only 10 recorded cases of wild boars injuring people since 2014, according to the AFCD – but half of those incidents occurred last year.

In January this year, the University of Hong Kong warned staff and students to be on their guard following two wild boar attacks near the campus, according to local media. At the end of last year, two senior citizens were rammed and bitten by boars at a housing estate in Kowloon.

A wild boar begs passing motorists for food (left). A boar family hanging out at a petrol station (right).
Clare Benson Lock,Jayne Purser
A wild boar begs passing motorists for food (left). A boar family hanging out at a petrol station (right).

Boars have sharp teeth, and large males are equipped with vicious tusks.

The animals, however, are “not generally aggressive,” says Howard Wong, director of the City University of Hong Kong’s veterinary school. “But like most wild animals if you corner them, they will react,” he adds. “And you definitely want to avoid a mother with piglets.”

If a wild boar feels threatened, it will charge, says Wong, using its head “like a battering ram.”

Experts warn never to approach boar piglets because the mother might become aggressive.
EJ Kim
Experts warn never to approach boar piglets because the mother might become aggressive.

Why are the boars coming to town?

Garbage bins are a lure. The boars topple them in search of food, leaving rubbish strewn over pavements.

“Pigs are creative – they’re one of the smartest animals,” says Wong. “Once they know it works, they will keep doing it.” Last year, a clip of a monster-sized boar raiding a dumpster in Hong Kong went viral on social media.

A wild boar raids garbage bins and finds some delicious watermelon rinds.
Bal Taylor
A wild boar raids garbage bins and finds some delicious watermelon rinds.

But the main reason for the urban invasion, says Wong, is that “well-meaning individuals are feeding them.”

He believes this reflects a cultural shift. As animal welfare has become a more prominent issue in Hong Kong, people are redefining themselves as animal lovers.

Walsh says she has seen local workers feeding the three boars that live near her apartment complex.

Veronique Che, an advocate with the Hong Kong Wild Boar Concern Group, believes that another factor is urban expansion. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the development of towns in the New Territories – Hong Kong’s northernmost region – led to the boars’ natural habitat being built over and converted to farmland, says Che.

“Boars, along with Hong Kong’s other wild animals, were squeezed out.”

Boar-busting strategies

The government has considered some wacky solutions to the boar problem.

One lawmaker suggested releasing natural predators into the wild but, as the AFCD points out, anything big enough to kill a wild boar – such as a lion or tiger – would threaten humans.

Another official floated the idea of moving the boars to uninhabited islands – but that’s not practical because they are good swimmers, according to the AFCD.

Culling has also been discussed. Two civilian hunting teams were previously authorized to shoot wild boars, but that was halted in 2017 due to concerns about animal welfare and public safety.

Posters warning the public not to feed wild boars are a common sight in Hong Kong.
Poppy Anderson
Posters warning the public not to feed wild boars are a common sight in Hong Kong.

Instead, the AFCD has launched a pilot program to capture “nuisance-causing wild pigs” and relocate them to remote areas.

The boars are micro-chipped and some receive a collar equipped with a GPS tracker. Mature females are injected with a contraceptive that is effective for about five years, and the feasibility of surgical sterilization is also being explored.

The government is also stepping up its public education campaigns and has commissioned research into boar-proof garbage bins.

As the Chinese Year of the Pig kicks off, Hong Kong is hoping that its porcine residents won’t become an unmanageable problem in the 12 months ahead.