Saturday, October 10, 2009

Introduction and how you can help

Hello fellow birders, animal lovers, good guys and gals and anyone else who has stumbled upon my blog.
I am an Englishman living in Phnom Penh city in Cambodia. I am a lifelong birder who has moved here recently. If you want proof of this look up my photos and messages on under the username russkie.
Cambodia is a country mainly populated by the Khmer people, most of whom are Buddhists. As a birder I was most disturbed to hear - and I confirmed this in person - that there is a serious trade in captive wild birds. These come under the following categories:

1) trade to other countries as caged birds

2) trade to private zoos or collections

3) trade within the Far East for medicinal purposes

4) locally as food

5) finally, and the one that I have witnessed - for religious purposes.

It is this final category that I shall concentrate on at the moment and try to enlist your help.
Followers of the Buddhist faith here believe that if they pay to release a wild bird that is caged, it will help them become better Buddhists, as they believe it is cruel to keep a wild animal in captivity.
As a result of this there are vendors in the city who have cages stuffed full of live captive wild birds. Locals then pay an amount to set a bird free. I have witnessed this first hand and the birds in question -Black-headed Munias Lonchura malacca then flew into nearby trees, seemingly unharmed.
Now the ethical question of course is this. If I were to pay these traders to release the birds, this would only encourage continuation of the capture of said birds. This is true but I feel that at least some birds would be freed from the ordeal of being caged in very hot conditions for days/weeks on end until released by a Khmer. Also I dont believe this trade will ever stop as it is a part of the culture of this country and probably most of southeast Asia.
Now I dont think I would be able to fund the release of all the birds I come across, but I intend to try to concentrate on rare or uncommon species. I will begin my quest in the Capital and if funds are available I will endeavour to get to the remote provinces where it is known that rare and endemic species are being treated similarly.
If you are unaware this country is home to many rare species and at least 6 globally threatened bird species. If I can transfer any of these to the local NGO's who are in the conservation business, then I feel I will have done my job.

How can you help:

ahhhh, the crunch. I am currently employed as an English teacher -earning $10 an hour in a local school.

I am asking any of you kind souls out in the real world to donate as little or as much as you can for me to go ahead with this venture. $1 will help me release a couple of birds from the city cages. As a start that is wonderful, but as time goes on and I venture into the countryside I will need more funds.

But that is for the future. All I ask is for each of you to donate at least $1 if you can.
If you wish to do so, I will give you the details for this by email. I will also inform you via the blog of which birds I release, where they are released from and whether I find any rare / uncommon species.

I understand that this might look like some scam- but have a look at my postings on birdforum if you are in any doubt.

$1 will help to free a couple of birds. It might give those birds - however common a species- a chance of free flight maybe forever.

Thankyou for reading this and I hope between us we can make a little difference to the lives of some of Cambodia's birdlife.

Nigel Eustace