With thanks to journalist, Thomas Bird, a ‘long-read’ about birding in China’s capital has just been published in the South China Morning Post.
In addition to celebrating the birds that can be found in China’s capital city, this article is significant for two reasons.
First, it shines a light on the use of mist nets, both legally as a tool to address the risk of bird strikes at China’s (300+) airports, and illegally to trap wild birds for the cage bird and exotic food trade. The former is an ineffective way to address the risk of bird strikes and the latter is largely driven by demand in South China.
Second, the South China Morning Post happens to be owned by Ma Yun (known as Jack Ma in the west), the billionaire founder of Alibaba and owner of Taobao, the online shopping platform which freely sells mist nets and other poaching tools. Ma is one of China’s richest men, in fact one of the wealthiest people in Asia. According to Bloomberg, he had a net worth of USD 44.9 billion as of December 2017.
We’re delighted that the editors allowed the link between Taobao and illegal poaching to be published and, presuming Jack Ma reads his own newspaper, this article can only help to raise awareness and put some pressure on Alibaba to restrict the sale of mist nets.
Let’s remember that, in late 2020, China will host the most significant meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity for many years, at which governments are expected to agree on new targets to slow, stop and reverse the decline of biodiversity from 2020. If I was Jack Ma, I would want to ensure that Alibaba and, in particular, Taobao, was playing its part in supporting biodiversity and was not part of the problem. It would be embarrassing and seriously harmful to the company’s reputation if, when the world’s eyes are on China, journalists focused on the role of Taobao/Alibaba in the illegal wildlife trade and poaching. I am sure shareholders would not be pleased.
Previous reporting about the sale of critically endangered Yellow-breasted Buntings on Alibaba’s Taobao can be seen here.