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Buddhist Ceremonial Release of Captive Birds May Harm Wildlife [Slide Show]

Buddhists across Asia release wildlife as a show of compassion, but conservationists find that the practice tortures the animals and may impact threatened species

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FLEETING FREEDOM:

A Vietnamese man offers a cage of birds their freedom in exchange for good karma in this merit release ritual. On religious holidays, sellers report a 100-percent turnover of their birds and say upwards of 80 percent are sold on normal days.....[ More ]

FRESH PRODUCT:

A trader’s motorbike idles at a Buddhist temple in Vietnam. As soon as a seller’s cage of merit release birds begins to thin out, such a trader shows up with a newly stocked one. Traders often lurk near the site of merit releases in order to scoop up newly released, disoriented birds and start the cycle all over again.   ....[ More ]

LIVING CHARM:

A live finch, sold as a charm in Shanghai. Wild birds are commonly sold throughout Southeast Asia, China, Taiwan and South Korea. ....[ More ]

ONE-STOP SHOP:

Traders collect birds from the countryside and often deliver them to shops like this one in Hanoi. The shop owner displays her chirping goods in neat rows outside. Within such shops, however, animals often must endure poor conditions.....[ More ]

A FEATHERY MENAGERIE:

Recently trapped wild birds of all shapes and sizes await the arrival of a motorbike trader who will transfer them to markets, shops or restaurants in nearby Ca Mau. Although the trade and sale of any wild bird is illegal in Vietnam, authorities almost always turn a blind eye.....[ More ]

A COLORFUL CAPTIVE

Kelly Edmunds, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in England who investigates the bird trade in Asia, says many people collect birds out of genuine love for the animals. At this home in rural Vietnam, a man keeps wild-caught purple swamphens in his backyard because of their beautiful plumage colors.....[ More ]

FRESH FROM THE FIELD:

The same Vietnamese farmer who demonstrated the snare trap shares his latest catch, a greater coucal. Since the bird is still alive, he will likely sell it to a trader who will then take the animal to a market, restaurant or temple in Ca Mau, the closest city.....[ More ]

SNARED:

Birds used in merit releases are usually sourced from the wild. Farmers and hunters set up traps in their rice fields and in forests to catch the birds each day. Snare traps are one of the most common methods used and can be easily fashioned from a bit of string and bamboo or reed.....[ More ]

PACKED LIKE SARDINES:

Cages of two by two-by 1.5 feet are crammed with 200 to 300 birds destined for merit releases at the start of each day. This cage from Phnom Penh is dominated by scaly-breasted munias and Eurasian tree sparrows, with a few streaked weavers and plain-backed sparrows thrown in.....[ More ]

THE DAY’S GOODS:

Vendors in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, gather at a popular Buddhist temple to sell offerings, including live birds for merit releases. Over the course of a year, a quarter of a million birds representing 57 different species pass through these cages in Phnom Penh alone, according to a new study.....[ More ]

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