Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bird Merit Release at Phnom Penh Riverside

Occassionally I go to check the cages where birds are held for merit release at a small temple along the river, opposite the Royal Palace. I did so today and although I did not find anything particular unusual I thought it would be good to post a blog about this practice. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of birds are sold every year (see article by N van Zalinge in Cambodia Bird News No.2). Lots of birds do not survive this ordeal, especially the insectivores like Barn Swallows, which starve to death in the period from capture to eventual release.
Many are in such a weakened state that they are hardly capable of flight and catching food after their ordeal. In order to see it better I had this Sand Martin removed from a cramped cage full of hundreds of Barn Swallows and when released it was barely able to gain enough lift to fly up in to a tree.

I saw hundreds of Scaly-breasted Munias being kept today (along with a few White-rumped), hundreds of Barn Swallows (and the single Sand Martin), plus a mix of a hundred or so Baya and Streaked Weavers. Among these birds were also 3 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.


The main depot from which birds are transferred to smaller mobile cages to sell individual birds to temple visitors.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters with nothing to eat.

I hope that I am not the only one who sees this commercialisation of a religious ceremony with originally good intentions as twisted and cruel. What merit can be obtained through involvement in this business? Can a wish be granted through the purchase and release of a bird especially caught by traders for that purpose?

It is even possible for avian influenza to cross from bird to person by kissing the birds before release, as is the custom.

See http://www.univ-sante.edu.kh/mekong_sante_2011/download/journee_des_doctorantes/3-001.pdf and http://www.kfbg.org/content/99/16/1/misfortune_28_APR.pdf for more information


1 comment:

  1. Hi Robert

    Were you able to note the presence and extent of tarsal feathering on the Sand Martin? Of course, the welfare of the bird in such a distressed state would have been your primary concern, but it occurs to me that this was a rare opportunity to settle the question about the presence or otherwise of Pale Martins.