On Thursday afternoon I paid a short visit to the Wenyu River. It’s a reasonably fast-flowing river so, even in the depths of winter when most water bodies are frozen, it is often ice-free and attracts many water birds, including thousands of duck and occasionally swans and geese. However, as well as providing good birding, this knowledge is not lost on wildlife criminals.
Thursday was not particularly birdy and the highlight was a party of four Whooper Swans which relaxed on the river with one eye on me as I scanned the duck from the river bank. Suddenly, around 60 Mallard took flight and I wondered what had caused the disturbance.. Then I saw the culprit – a young man with a catapult who had been firing ball bearings at the flock, initially from his car and then from much closer as he hid behind a tree.
As a wildlife-lover, sights like this make me angry and sad. In the modern world, wildlife is facing enough pressures from habitat destruction, pollution and the impacts of climate change without the actions of an ignorant few. I took some photos and video, including a clear image of his car plate, and sent them to the local State Forestry Police in Shunyi District. Despite it still being the Chinese New Year holiday, to my delight the police responded immediately and, the following day, they had tracked down the owner of the vehicle, called him in to the police station, confiscated his catapult and ‘educated’ him about the law.
Given no ducks were seen to be killed (thankfully he had a poor aim!), the most the police could do was give him a stern warning and remind him that his actions were against the law. The police said he was very sorry and went home feeling repentant.
It is a good reminder to anyone who sees wildlife crime in Beijing (or anywhere) not to turn the other cheek or to think that the police won’t take it seriously. Please capture as much evidence as you can, note the location and call the police. At least in Beijing, they WILL act to enforce the law that protects all wild birds in China.
To help, I have published a list of the telephone numbers for the State Forestry Police in Beijing. Note the police are organised by District, so the numbers are different, depending on where you live or go birding. If you live in Beijing, or visit regularly, please save this image on your phone so you know who to call if you encounter any wildlife crime.
Huge thanks and kudos to the Shunyi District State Forestry Police for responding so fast and effectively, especially during the Chinese New Year festivities.
Beijing police: ridding the capital of wildlife crime, one offender at a time!