Pay attention to the rapidly declining bird number!

20150610 (Wed)

An article is published on Conservation Biology. The headline is clear - Global population collapse in a superabundant migratory bird and illegal trapping in China (Kamp, et al., 2015). My grandparents are from Guangdong, a province in Southern China. It is not rare to hear "Rice Bird" (禾花雀) when talking about the dishes in China. I am lucky enough not to be one of the culprits eating them to the verge of extinction.

What is Rice Bird? Actually, the bird species concerned here is the Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola, 黃胸鵐). Apparently, it is similar to the much more common sparrow we see every day. But there is a stark contrast between their conservation status. The Yellow-breasted Bunting is now endangered on the IUCN Red List, which is an all-around inventory of species bearing high conservation importance.

The lower the number of birds, the higher their conservation status. Decades ago, they were abundant. The Eurasian population is migratory. Hong Kong lies on their migration route. According to previous Hong Kong Bird Reports, birdwatchers and oral history, birds in migration could be seen in thousands in Hong Kong. In present years, seeing them in only in dozens surprises birdwatchers. The decline in their number is alarming.

Massive hunting is a major threat causing rapid population decline. They roost in large numbers. If I were a merciless hunter, I would set traps on these easy preys. But the biological behaviour should not be blamed. Human appetite is the real disaster for them. It is rumoured that the Yellow-breasted Bunting is valued for boosting sexual vitality. Can you imagine how much the impotent Chinese males are willing to pay for their incurable conditions? The rising wealth is a catalyst. The hunt may rage at an unimaginable scale in near future. The threats should never be under-estimated.

It is everyone's responsibility to encourage conservation and discourage consumption of these magnificent creatures. Once they were as common as sparrows, now they are not. Starting with people around us, we can spread the message around.

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