Lantau feral cattle and water buffalo

They might seem odd "wildlife", yet Lantau's cattle and water buffalo now roam free, and are part of the ecosystem.

They might seem odd “wildlife”, yet Lantau’s cattle and water buffalo now roam free, and are part of the ecosystem.

During a cold spell inearly 2008, the buffalo importance was perhaps highlighted by Pui O becoming a refuge for thrushes, Taiga Flycatchers, Daurian Redstarts, Red-flanked Bluetails and other birds – which were finding it tough finding food elsewhere, yet maybe sustained here partly as result of buffalo dung/wetland being still ok for insects.

Clive Noffke of Green Lantau Association has strived to ensure the cattle and buffalo are still allowed to roam free. He’s worked on leaflets on the cattle and buffalo; some of the text from them here, and pdf files attached.

Lantau Cattle

Yellow cattle were once a very important part of village life on Lantau.  Even up to 30 years ago cattle were needed to plough the upland paddy fields for rice cultivation.
Their droppings (dung) were the most important fertilizer for gardens. At the Trappist Monastery, cows were kept for providing fresh milk. These days the cattle are no longer used, and rice cultivation has been replaced by small vegetable plots.
The Trappist Monastery has long ceased to produce milk on Lantau.
Today’s herds at Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk, Shui Hau, Shek Pik and Discovery Bay are a small remnant (some 70 animals) of the once numerous animals that were our valued partners.

Lantau Water Buffalo

Water buffalo were once a very important part of village life on Lantau.
These immensely strong animals were the ‘tractors’ which ploughed the alluvial coastal plains for wet-land rice cultivation.

Water buffalo at Shap Long, west Lantau

Their droppings (dung) were the most important fertilizer for gardens.
Up to the 1970s, buffalo were still being used at Pui O to plough the fields.
But rice cultivation soon ceased and the hard-working buffaloes have been left to fend for themselves on the remaining wetland plains.
Their descendants are still with us today although now reduced through culling to some 60 animals only,an enchanting and poignant reminder of our agricultural heritage and the essential part played by these, our valued partners.
Lantau Water Buffalo leaflet (pdf)
Lantau Cattle leaflet (pdf)

Hong Kong wildlife articles and galleries


  1. Lantau Water Buffalo photo book by Dina Yang AVAILABLE NOW!!!
    The water buffalo (B. bubalus var. sinensis) of Lantau Island was, is , and will always be part of the “Islands” landscape.
    Misunderstood, maligned and neglected, these animals at one time provided the much needed workforce to support the agricultural industry of the area.
    The change in the socioeconomic picture of the local population has resulted in these animals existing in nomadic groups, fending for themselves when and where they could find their daily subsistence.

    Lantau Islands’ unique ecological environment is proving to be reaping the benefits of these animals existence in this
    island. Unless the ecotourism impact of their presence is
    utilized for all its worth, their disappearance from this area
    will result in an ecological disaster.

    A pictorial book on these gentle giants is presented to you by Dina Yang.


  2. Water Buffalo’s
    Dina is doing a wonderful job in making people aware of the importance of these beautiful creatures. She is an inspiration and it was lovely meeting her during my brief trip in Hong Kong.

    Christopher from Japan.

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