IFAW China: White-tailed Sea Eagle Rescue and Release
This report came in this week from the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Beijing Raptor Rehab Center in China.
On January 12, 2009, a white-tailed sea eagle, an endangered species listed under first-class protection in China, recovered from poisoning and was returned to the wild today by the IFAW Beijing Raptor Rescue Center (BRRC).
Mr Yi together with four bird-watcher friends, found this eagle near Guan Ting reservoir in Yan Qing, 70 km northwest of Beijing in Hebei Province.“It was off balance and could not fly. We thought the bird had been injured and hurried to help it by taking it to the raptor rescue center, Mr. Yi said.” Then we saw another White-tailed Sea Eagle not far away from this one, sadly at its last gasp.” The second White-tailed Sea Eagle died on the way to BRRC.
At the BRRC, rehabilitators quickly diagnosed the condition as organophosphate (insecticide) poisoning and treated the eagle accordingly. The bird responded well to medication and recovered well over the following few days. He is strong and well but unhappy over being in captivity. BRRC rehabilitators assign importance to minimizing stress to the animals in their care. Stress severely compromises animal welfare and an animal’s ability to heal. As soon as the eagle is considered safely out of danger from the poisoning incident, he will be released. In the meantime, all precautions are taken to optimize the comfort and sense of security of the bird.
This eagle and the companion who died were victims of secondary poisoning. Rural people are known to spread poisoned food as a means of poaching wild animals. The animals are then sold on the market as food. Several dead ducks were found on the lake where the two eagles were rescued. The eagle that survived had vomited duck feathers, and had most probably ingested a poisoned duck. Secondary poisoning of this sort is a common cause of death in wildlife, including many endangered species.
Mr. Yi observed that the number of wild birds in the area around the Guan Ting reservoir is reduced this winter compared with previous years. After rescuing the eagles, he called the police to report the suspected poisonings.
“It is common for local people to capture pheasants and hares, and we will punish suspects who hunt rare animals,” said an officer at the local police station.
In Beijing, White-tailed Sea Eagles are rare winter migratory birds, inhabiting areas near broad rivers. They hunt primarily fish, but will also capture birds and small mammals. They are found across northern Europe and Asia. Following 16 years on the list of threatened species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), European recovery efforts for the species enabled the international conservation status of the species to be more secure since 2009.
Raptors are carnivorous birds that are high on the food chain. As such, they are susceptible to toxins that their prey ingest. The BRRC has received and treated around 3,000 raptors since its establishment in 2001. Of the rescued birds, approximately 5% were victims of secondary poisoning. The poisons are usually insecticides and rodenticides. BRRC advises the improvement of government regulations on the use of these chemicals to minimize the damage to wildlife, domestic animals and humans.
For more information on IFAW's work helping animals in crisis around the world, please visit www.ifaw.org