After ten years of helping thousands of birds, China recognizes raptor center
Seeing the cruelty and suffering of the raptors was the defining moment for me. I pledged to set up a rescue center to demonstrate the standards of care for wildlife in rescue, rehabilitation and release.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare Beijing Raptor Rescue Center (BRRC) was awarded "Outstanding Organization for Forest and Wildlife Conservation" by the State Forestry Administration of China. At a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on May 11, 42 organizations and 42 individuals were selected among hundreds of candidates across China to receive the award. IFAW BRRC is the only non-governmental organization recognized for its contribution to the protection of birds of prey in China.
Getting this level of government endorsement for BRRC is a proud moment for IFAW and for me personally. A series of sad encounters I had with raptors that fell victim to illegal wildlife trade, a decade ago, prompted me to establish the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center. In the late 1990s, large number of birds of prey were illegally caught in China and smuggled out of the country for falconry. In one smuggling case, Beijing Customs authorities seized 450 saker falcons. However, lack of facility, capacity and skills for wildlife rescue, rehabilitate and release in China meant that those raptors had no chance of survival even though they were rescued from the smuggling ordeal.
I witnessed a "bird release" where injured raptors were further victimized in the name of raising conservation awareness. The raptors--injured and had no flight capabilities--were thrown into the air, in a fake release just for the camera. Seeing the cruelty and suffering of the raptors was the defining moment for me. I pledged to set up a rescue center to demonstrate the standards of care for wildlife in rescue, rehabilitation and release. In December 2001, IFAW BRRC officially opened, becoming the first Raptor Rescue Center on mainland China.
Ten years on, the IFAW BRRC has received more than 3100 raptor patients. Under the tender loving care of IFAW staff rehabilitators, 55% of the birds eventually gained their physical, psychological healthy and survival skills to return to the wild. Through addressing raptors' medical, nutritional, behavioral, social and psychological requirements, BRRC sends the message that the animals are sentient beings capable to feel pain and suffering.
IFAW BRRC provides information to the authorities to aid conservation policy development, improve law enforcement and routinely receive confiscated raptors from law enforcement actions. Through BRRC outreach efforts, millions of people in China are taking action to reject wildlife trade, to keep wildlife in the wild. After all, raptors belong in the sky.