Farmer’s poisoning of wild birds exposes conservation conundrum

By Zhou Ping Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-26 23:59:05

A farmer in Hunan Province has been put under criminal detention for poisoning migratory birds that were resting in East Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve in the city of Yueyang, reported the Xinhua News Agency Wednesday.

The farmer, surnamed Sun, was caught by local law enforcement officers with 20 wild ducks and geese that had been poisoned to death on December 21, two days after the reserve received reports that carbofuran, a toxic poison, had been detected around Meitan Bay.

"Sun aroused the suspicion of volunteers who patrol the reserve to stop illegal hunting," a deputy director surnamed Liu from the reserve's administration office told the Global Times, adding that Sun's motivation was not yet clear.

Rural residents in Hunan have traditionally hunted birds either for food or to sell, said Zheng Wujie, a member of the Environmental Action Associations of Hunan Province, which has exposed a series of illegal hunting cases.

Zheng said along with cracking down on illegal hunting, he is working with local governments to set up ecological communities where migratory birds congregate. "Residents used to rely on bird hunting but now need help finding a new way to support themselves."

Some counties in the province have difficulty reconciling the need for strict conservation measures and people's traditional way of life. The Beijing Morning Post reported that migratory birds consumed and damaged up to 60 percent of a crop in Yueyang and Huarong counties, and that vegetables, grapes and fish ponds are their favorite targets.

Deng Dongqi, head of the science and technology promotion center of the Yueyang's forestry bureau, said it's urgent to expand crop insurance and provide subsidies to farmers who lose crops to migrating birds.

"The wild animal protection law requires local government to compensate farmers for damage caused by animals, but it doesn't provide specifics, and it lacks funding," said Chen Huasheng, deputy head of Junshan district in Yueyang.

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