Date
28 July 2017
Chinese people's dining habits have led to a steep decline in the numbers of an endangered sparrow species, say experts. Photo: Hong Kong Bird Watching Society
Chinese people's dining habits have led to a steep decline in the numbers of an endangered sparrow species, say experts. Photo: Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Chinese dining habits push a sparrow species to the brink

The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society has urged the public to stop eating an endangered species of sparrow, pointing to the birds’ declining numbers and warning of the possibility of extinction of the tiny creatures.

Yu Yat-tung, research manager of the society, said Emberiza Aureola, or yellow-breasted bunting, have seen their numbers dwindle by half over the period between 1980 and 2013, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The decline has been continuing in the past two years, he said, adding that he believes that only between 60,000 and 300,000 such birds are left in the wild now in the region.

If people do not stop large–scale hunting of the bird, the species is likely to become extinct in a few years, Yu said.

The bird has been called “Ginseng in the sky”, a reflection of a popular belief that its meat can be good for health.

This has led to the creature ending up on dinner plates. According to the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Guangdong residents alone consume as many as one million of the sparrow a year.

There is also a clandestine trade in the species as the bird parts are used in some Chinese medicines.

The Chinese government has officially banned the catching of the bird since 1997, while the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species as endangered since 2013.

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