Nearly 50,000 gray-faced buzzard eagles have passed through Kending National Park this year, the most since their numbers were first recorded 20 years ago.
Tsai Yi-jung (蔡乙榮), a senior technician who has worked in Kending National Park for 25 years, said the number of gray-faced buzzard eagles passing through the park on their migration routes has grown threefold in the past decade as environmental education and controls on illegal hunting have taken hold.
After reaching 43,515 last year and 49,600 this year, the number of birds passing through the park is likely to break 50,000 next year, Tsai said.
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 Kending 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 said.
Four cases of illegal hunting of gray-faced buzzards have been reported so far this year, according to local police.
Tsai said that after the police began cracking down on illegal hunting of the species, the birds were now being sold for NT$1,000 to NT$1,200, more than double the NT$300 to NT$500 the birds fetched more than a decade ago.
This rare species of migratory bird may be the most famous of 200 bird species that transit through Kending National Park every year as they migrate, and because its migration period is usually around Oct. 10, Taiwan’s national day, it is nicknamed the “National Day Bird.”
Gray-faced buzzards usually rest in Kending for about 20 days from early to mid-October and can be seen flying in groups above the ocean. Kending National Park holds an annual eagle-watching event that includes various bird watching and environmental education activities.
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