A few weeks ago, after delivering a lecture at Beijing Birdwatching Society, I met one of the volunteers “Zhang Crane” from the Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre. She invited me to visit and, a few days later, I made the short journey across town with Jennifer Leung to take a look.
We were immediately impressed. The facilities were very modern, the staff clearly committed and passionate about birds and the ‘patients’ in their care were looking well.
The Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre was set up in 2001 and, since then, it has treated 3,500 birds of 33 species. Of those, 52% have been released back into the wild (this figure is increasing over time as treatment becomes more advanced). Most have been picked up in the suburbs of Beijing; young birds, recently fledged, victims of illegal nets and birds found for sale in the bird markets of Beijing form the bulk of the patients.
We were shown around by Tong Guo Liang (English name Gavin Tang), one of the 4 full-time staff who, together with a host of volunteers, run the centre 365/24/7. He told us about the case of a Eurasian Kestrel, currently in care, that was brought in with a broken wing. After an operation to implant a pin, painstaking care and strength-building activities in an outside aviary, the staff were confident this bird would be released back into the wild.. a heartwarming case.
We were given a tour of the facilities and shown some of the other patients. A female Amur Falcon and a Eurasian Hobby looked a bit out of place on a chilly winter day but were clearly doing well. Others included a Long-eared Owl, Peregrine, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Japanese and Eurasian Sparrowhawks and a magnificent Golden Eagle. Each cage had a board on the door indicating the species and the amount of food it required each day…
The Golden Eagle had been brought in by a Beijinger who had been travelling back by car from Inner Mongolia. He had seen a local guy selling the eagle by the side of the road. Heartbroken to see this magnificent raptor in such a state, he bought it, thinking that he would simply release it in a suitable area. After a failed attempt to release it – the bird couldn’t fly – he took it to the raptor rescue centre on his return to Beijing. Examination revealed that it had a hole in one of its wings and infected feet. It took three attempts to heal the hole in the wing but now, after 6 months at the centre, it seems to be improving and the chances of it being released back into the wild were given as 50/50.
The centre is part-funded by IFAW – the International Fund for Animal Welfare – and is based at Beijing Normal University in the northwest of the city. They welcome visitors, and of course, donations!