by Nick Upton
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Birds Dying and Dead at Muang Boran Fishponds

Having written about the shocking level of bird deaths at Muang Boran Fishponds in March a visit was made on the morning of 24th May 2008 to see what the current situation was. Whilst there seemed to be fewer corpses than previously, this probably had a lot to do with the fact that there are now fewer birds present due to large numbers of migrants having departed.

Unfortunately there was no evidence that the number of hooks strung out to catch birds had decreased and indeed one local man said that the people tending the fishponds had resorted to these measures because of the large volume of fish that had been lost to birds; he named Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Egrets, Pond Herons, Bitterns and Herons as the species that locals regard as particularly problematic.

It was interesting to note that one pond, which was one of just a few that employed the suspended hook method back in 2003-4, was now being protected by hundreds of lines of fishing line stretched out across the pond at a height of about 2 metres, with no hooks used. This did seem to deter the large waterbirds but the pond was still being used by Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana, Common Moorhen, Watercock, Little Grebe and White-browed Crake.

For now though the situation is still bad and on 24th May not only corpses were found but 2 live birds were seen struggling, caught by the wing, on hooks. One, a Little Grebe, was suspended by the left wing and swimming around desperately, calling in distress. The bird was far away in deep water so I was unable to help it, however, locals clearing reeds came over when called and put the bird out of its misery.

Even more upsetting was a female Greater Painted Snipe hanging by it right wing, again caught by a hook. As the pool had been drained I was able to wade out a little way to the bird but without a knife I was unable to break the line - I had to resort to chewing through the nylon line to get the bird down. With the bird in the hand I was unable to get the hook out of its flesh due to the barb so again I chewed through the line close to the hook. Unfortunately as I bit through the cord, the bird escaped my clutches and ran away into the reeds. I guess at least it was able to die in peace instead of hanging in the hot sun.

Greater Painted Snipe caught by a hook
(Photo by Nick Upton)

Nets, although less prevalent than suspended hooks, continue to claim victims at Muang Boran Fishponds and two of the photos below show a couple of sad deaths. It is also frustrating to see that a large proportion of the birds dying by these methods are of no concern to the fish rearing process.

Striated Grassbird?

Pied Fantail

Little Grebe

I would ask other birdwatchers visiting Muang Boran Fishponds to note numbers of dead birds, noting species where possible, and forward it for publication here and to the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and they can decide to take action, if any. The practice of suspending hooks to deter birds is used elsewhere too and any reports of other locations where this is seen would be useful.

One gunshot was also heard on the 24th May and it seemed that this was being used as a bird scaring measure rather than for hunting - it certainly had the effect of clearing one pond of 148 Cattle Egrets.

Nick Upton, 25th May 2008
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Related Pages: Abuse of Wildlife for Tourists , Birds for sale at Chatuchak, Bird Persecution , Massive Increase in Bird Trapping at Chiang Saen , Large numbers of Dead Birds at Muang Boran Fishponds newsletter -
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