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Chengdu - our birds are in danger!

Posted Thursday 29th January 2009 at 15:24 by china guy
Updated Thursday 29th January 2009 at 15:46 by china guy
Chengdu Bird guiding – [email protected] - Chengdu, Sichuan, the gateway to Tibet - to see more travel pics of Sichuan go to my travel blog at -
To see more of our birding pics go to -

The net that ruined our day.

I usually write in an upbeat mode trying to promote the fantastic Birding we have in Sichuan - but sometimes the realities of life out here, and how wildlife comes to suffer from the heavy hand of man - sometimes puts a bit of a damper on our wonderful hobby.
With some of the environmental destruction - that comes through the need to develop an economy that can support a population 1.3billion - we can understand the need for certain projects that come to harm wildlife (even if we often feel that of this work needs to better take into account the importance of environmental conservation). But when it comes to blatant, unsustainable exploitation of wildlife - through illegal poaching - then, even though we take into consideration the poverty levels that often go hand in hand with Chinese rural-life, we get very upset.

Today was a duck day - we've found a part of the Jinma River that supports a good number of ducks - Mallards, Teal, Spot-bills, Pintails, Widgeon, Tufted, Ferruginous, Ruddy Shelduck, Common Merganser and a single Falcated Duck. This site is very close to Chengdu.

Birding was nice today because we got a Falcated Duck and about 400 other ducks in an area that has never before been noted for its ducks - but our lasting memory were those damnable nets. I actually think their main use was not to catch ducks - they were set up for Buzzards. This river has a good population of these birds - and a few Peregrine Falcons. Birds of prey are sold - yes you've guessed it - as medicine. We know they catch them to be sold alive, since we saw a piece about it on the local TV when they entrapped a Buzzard seller and secretly filmed him. That TV clip ended with the police being called. After seeing these nets - I now realise how they catch Buzzards alive. On this trip we didn't have a TV crew with us - and were a long way off from a police station - but I can say that after we finished with them the nets can’t be put to use again. However I'm afraid the poachers – who weren’t around - will be soon back at work. Enforcing conservation laws at this rather minor level – in difficult to get locations - is a problematic job for local authorities.

A rather bad pic - one we took last year - of a very good duck - Falcated Duck. We scoped one of these today - in that stretch of water that lies just beyond the nets. The net lies where a thin tributary flow meets that duck-rich wider stretch. Any birds that chose to fly over the water in this direction would have come very close to the nets - and maybe hit them. According to IUCN - Falcated Duck is a near threatened species - in our neck of the woods, with the likes of those nets - their status is more like endangered!!!

And the future - how long do we have to birdwatch through a mist net? Well we have a Bird Society here in Chengdu that is doing pioneering work with regard to educating the next generation towards being more aware of the need to protect the environment - and how bird conservation is an important aspect of that protection. We might also hope that the Chinese authorities who are eager to create a society of international excellence - as they tried to demonstrate through their efforts over the Olympics - could try push a little of that 'excellence' towards wildlife conservation. We have wonderful Panda reserves and national parks in Sichuan that support so much birdlife - but wildlife habitats that are a bit more ordinary in nature, but also hold rare and interesting species - well some of them are just about hanging on, while others are being degraded at a very quick rate.
I suppose, I can always hope somebody out there, who has some pull regarding conservation in China, reads this latest blog - there are many bird rich areas in Sichuan that need more protection now.
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