[China] Rare bird population dented by hunting

Rare bird population dented by hunting

Rare bird population dented by hunting       

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou and Yang Yao in Beijing

China Daily Hong Kong Edition

An environmental group in Guangzhou has renewed calls for people to stop eating migratory birds, as numbers continue to plummet.

Let the Migrant Birds Fly, a charitable fund, made the plea in a report this month that warned the yellow-breasted bunting — known locally as the ricebird — is disappearing.

No official monitoring has taken place, so there are no figures on how many are left in the wild, but the report says the population is “extremely small”.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the bird as an endangered species on Nov 26, putting it in the same category as the panda.

The yellow-breasted bunting breeds in northeastern Europe and northern Asia and migrates to Southeast Asia, India and southern China in winter.

However, the bird has been a common delicacy in China since the 1990s.

Ornithologist Zou Fasheng said the number of wild ricebirds has undergone a massive reduction in Guangdong province in recent years.

“Over-hunting has been given as one of the major reasons,” Zou said.

The Chinese wildlife watchdog has included the migratory birds in its protected wild animal list since 2000.

Special campaigns are launched annually to fight illegal hunting and selling of the migratory birds.

Deng Youquan, director of the Leizhou city forestry bureau in Guangdong, was removed from his post in November for his failure to protect the wild migratory birds, local media reported.

However, despite the government’s protection efforts, the birds are still sold on the black market.

When asked by a China Daily reporter, none of the sellers would admit the birds were available at a live poultry market in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district. However, insiders said that the rare birds are still sold to acquaintances, to avoid investigation by law enforcement.

Restaurants have also served the dish to regular customers.

“The government has been investigating the sale of ricebirds, and many restaurants in Guangzhou and Foshan that used to feature the wild birds as a major attraction have removed the ricebird from their menus,” said Liu Daming, a chef at a restaurant in Foshan.

Many restaurants sell the wild bird dishes because of the large profits available.