On critter-saving duty

On critter-saving duty

On May 25, Young Post reporter Wong Yat-hei spent a day at work with animal inspectors from SPCA. Here is his account of what he saw ...

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Rango Leung, an assistant inspector at SPCA, handles an iguana captured at a boys' hostel in Sham Shui Po.
Rango Leung, an assistant inspector at SPCA, handles an iguana captured at a boys' hostel in Sham Shui Po.
Photos: Dickson Lee/SCMP
At 9am I arrive at the SPCA Centre in Ho Man Tin and am greeted by senior inspectors Desmond Tsang Ka-lun and Anthony Leung Siu-lun. They will be my buddies for the day. We go to the inspector's office, where the two of them show me pictures of an owl that they recently rescued. They tell me about their work. It is not an easy job.

Inspectors work up to 12 hours a day and have to be on shift duty around the clock. One bonus is they get two days off after working for two days.

About 30 minutes into our conversation, the phone rings. The operator has just received a call from a driver who saw a dog limping on a highway bridge at Prince Edward Road West near Mong Kok. It might have been hit by a car. Here comes our first mission!

We head down to the garage, where a van filled with cages of all shapes and sizes, ropes and other equipment is parked. This is to be our ride for the day. Because of Friday morning traffic, it takes us 15 minutes to get to the scene. We don't see the dog.

We drive around the streets near the flower market in Mong Kok in search of the injured animal for 10 more minutes before we head back to base. Desmond explains that this may have been a false alarm.

"Sometimes people see a dog walking on a highway and think there is something wrong but very often the dog is just taking a walk," he explains.

Mission one: Unaccomplished.

Since I am eager to take pictures of the inspectors in action, Desmond suggests we set off to Sam Mun Tsai in Tai Po, where an abandoned dog lives with her puppies. The dog has a collar around its neck. But, as she grew in size, the collar has become so tight that it cuts into her flesh. Our mission is to remove the collar.

Desmond says it won't be an easy task as the dog is wary of people. "There is a hiker who feeds her and her puppies every day but so far he has not been able to pat them yet. The dogs live by a dam at a fishing village. The best chance to capture it is when it is sleeping. Let's see if it is our lucky day," he says.


Desmond Tsang, left, a senior SPCA inspector at SPCA, during a mission

It's a 10-minute walk from the car to the dam. We stop at a spot under a tree near where Desmond and Anthony last saw the dog. We put out a can of dog food to attract her as we walk up and down the giant rocks surrounding the dam looking for her. There isn't a dog in sight.

Worse, the sunny sky soon turns dark and it starts to rain. We have to call an end to our search.

Mission two: Unaccomplished.

On our way back, we receive a report about a lizard in a children's hostel in Sham Shui Po. We immediately drive to the scene.

When we arrive at the Society of Boys' Centres UnChau Hostel, we find another inspector already there with a policeman. Under Desmond's supervision, assistant supervisor Rango Leung uses a net to capture the green iguana, which has been trapped under a red plastic bucket. The lizard is quickly locked into a wooden box and put in the van.

Just as we are about to leave, a man with a camera approaches. He wants to take pictures of the lizard. He's a reporter. It is kind of cool that I was able to take pictures of catching the lizard and not just the lizard in a box. We let the reporter snap a few shots and drive back to base to let vets examine the reptile. At last we have got something done.

In the afternoon, Desmond and I head back to Sam Mun Tsai to look for the dog with the collar again.

Anthony goes to Sha Tin to handle a complaint about unattended dogs.

Our second search, too, is unsuccessful so we decide to head back to base where Desmond has some paper work to handle.

Inspectors do not spend all their time outdoors. Writing reports on their cases is also part of their job.

It's a pity we haven't helped any animals today, but perhaps better luck next time.

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