The story appears on

Page A12

April 14, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sunday

Mercy flight: compassion and cruelty in ‘helping’ birds of prey

A flight of migrating raptors soar across the sky. Admiring their passage, Dai Chang, a rehabilitator at Beijing Raptor Rescue Center, feels a mixture of awe and trepidation.

China is home to many species of raptor, including eagles, hawks and owls. Raptors are typically large predatory birds that generally hunt smaller birds, rodents and insects. China’s migratory raptors mostly fly to southern Africa in fall and return in spring. Each trip can be more than 10,000 kilometers.

“I hope that these birds will reach their destinations safely,” said Dai. “Illegal capture, habitat destruction, food shortages and misplaced aid are some of the threats they face twice a year.”

All raptors are protected by Chinese law, classified as national first-level protected species.

The Beijing center rescues and rehabilitates injured raptors to date — more than 4,000 of them.

In 2016, it released around three quarters of the birds received back into the wild. Over 80 percent of the injuries caused by humans were due to them being kept illegally in captivity or occurred when they were captured.

If you encounter an injured raptor you may be tempted to nurse it for a few days but keeping it is illegal and a threat to its life.

Dai shared the case of a baby kestrel picked up by a woman who decided to keep it for a while rather than send it to the center. A cardboard box filled with straw became the kestrel’s temporary nest. Every day, the woman fed the kestrel with beef and mutton from the wet market. After a month, she noticed the kestrel could no longer stand. Only then did she take it to the center where it was X-rayed.

“We found 44 fractures. It was suffering from severe malnutrition, especially since it was still growing. Its bones were too brittle. We were unable to save it,” said Dai.

“Kestrels hunt for mice, lizards and frogs. They definitely do not eat beef or mutton. Do not assume that kestrels and humans have the same diet, or your actions will only be detrimental to its health.”

Most birds that arrive at the center are brought by people who mean well. On arrival, an injured bird receives a thorough examination. If necessary, and if possible, it will be given medical treatment and be rehabilitated. It will be released only when physically and mentally healthy again.

“All wild creatures are afraid of humans,” said Dai. “Even if injured, birds will use their last breath to escape from a human. If you encounter a bird of prey, or any bird at all, and can approach it and touch it, that means it has serious injuries.”

It is best to contact a licensed rehabilitation group such as the Beijing center immediately. Place the bird in a cardboard box with air holes and it will be safer to transport. Do not feed it or give it any medicine.

If you come across baby birds that have fallen from their nests, leave them alone. These are regular occurrences, especially during breeding season. The best way to help is to place the baby bird in a safer place, close to its nest. Its parents will return after a while. Only when a bird is obviously injured will it need help from wildlife organizations.

At the Beijing center, rehabilitators even disguise themselves as trees when handling birds. They do so to prevent fledglings from getting attached to humans. If that happens, it is harder for them to return to the wild.

“Rescuing raptors is never easy. At times, the injuries sustained are too severe,” said Dai. “Yet, whenever we can help one to fully recover and see it soar into the sky again, our effort is worth it.”

The Beijing Raptor Rescue Center is a non-governmental facility founded in 2001 by Beijing Normal University, the Beijing Wildlife Protection Nature Reserve and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend