Pingtung, Oct. 28 (CNA) Nearly 50,000 gray-faced buzzard eagles have passed through southern Taiwan's Kenting National Park this year, the most since their numbers were first recorded 20 years ago, as environmental education and controls on illegal hunting have taken hold.
Tsai Yi-jung, a senior technician who worked in Kenting National Park for 25 years, said the number gray-faced buzzard eagles passing through the park on their migration routes has grown threefold in the past decade, and after reaching 43,515 in 2008 and 49,600 in 2009 is likely to break 50,000 next year.
Gray-faced buzzard eagles, also known as the "National Day Bird," are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) , which includes species for which trade must be controlled to "avoid utilization incompatible with their survival." The number of gray-faced buzzards stopping in Kenting has grown by about 3,000 per year since 1998, said Tsai, who attributed the growth in part to the support of local police in investigating and controlling illegal hunting.
"Since the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office began asking local police departments to supplement efforts by park police in strengthening the investigation and arrest of illegal hunters of the birds seven years ago, the situation has really changed, " Tsai asserted.
Four cases of illegal hunting of gray-faced buzzards have been reported so far this year, according to local police.
Tsai also noted that as police have cracked down on illegal hunting of the species, its selling price has reached NT$1,000 to NT$1,200, more than double the NT$300 to NT$500 the bird fetched more than a decade ago.
This rare species of migratory bird may be the most famous of 200 bird species that transit through Kenting National Park every year as they migrate, and because its migration period usually comes around Oct. 10, Taiwan's national day, it is nicknamed the "National Day Bird." Gray-faced buzzards usually rest in Kenting for about 20 days from early to mid-October and can be seen flying in groups above the ocean. Kenting National Park holds an annual eagle-watching event that includes various bird-watching and environmental education activities.
(By Kuo Chih-hsuan and Fanny Liu)