Poachers Killing Large Number of Swans at Poyang Lake

January 17, 2009 Updated: January 17, 2009

Poyang Lake, located north of Jiangxi Province and to the south of the Yangtze River, is the largest freshwater lake in China, covering an area of  900 square miles.  Each year, tens of thousands of swans fly to the lake region, which used to be a paradise for migratory birds. This winter, however, an average of at least two hundred swans have been poisoned to death or captured daily by poachers, turning the wildlife paradise into a slaughterhouse of wild birds.

According to the Jiangnan City Daily, this winter, the Poyang Lake region near Lianwei Township of Xinjian County was divided into thousands of small  lakes, which local villagers are assigned to manage. One can see small wooden houses built by fishermen near the shores of these lakes. It is here that the swans have been vulnerable to illegal poaching.

Crime of Swan Killing Done Quietly Under Cover of Darkness

According to Huang Xianyin, a villager and volunteer conservationist from the lakeside township of Henghu, some poachers poison the swans while others use barbed wire traps. Fishermen in the Poyang Lake region said that there are sometimes more than 100 such wire fences, stretching scores of miles. Huang said that the barbed wire traps were set up to capture swans whose wings become blocked when they enter fences. The villagers  have been selling the swans to  restaurants in nearby cities.

On Jan. 4, as a reporter from the Jiangnan City Daily walked around the lake for about an hour, he saw the bodies of at least 40 swans and a large number of wild ducks. A swan struggled among the floating bodies and died right in front of him about 30 minutes later.

Huang pointed out that the number of swans killed was not limited to those they saw. He told the reporter that the bodies represented just a small fraction of the last night's kill. The poachers collect their catch before dawn, under cover of darkness, as it is too risky to do so during the day, since poaching is illegal.

Huang said that these  poachers were well organized. "Now we are approaching the Chinese New Year and the price of swans is increasing. A swan can be sold  for 800 Yuan to restaurants. If it is sold out of the region, the price may be even higher, up to several thousand Yuan," said Huang.

"We are determined to combat these criminals, but, to be honest, our work has had little effect. Poyang Lake is huge, there is a lack of equipment and with only around ten people we can't patrol it effectively," according to  Mr. Li, the head of the Nanchang Wildlife Management Station.

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