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  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 5:26am

Shooters fly in the face of conservation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 December, 2011, 12:00am

The black kite is an enduring symbol of the triumph of nature over the pressures of population, pollution and development in Hong Kong.

Among the most visible of the 492 species of bird recorded in the city, Black kites can be seen soaring over hills, sea and city. They are particularly striking at this time of year as they swoop and dive in their dramatic courtship displays.

The kites represent a flying vanguard for other spectacular, but less common species still surviving here, such as the giant white-bellied sea eagle - a bird that boasts a two-metre wing span - and the Chinese goshawk.

How tragic then that these birds of prey must cope with a new threat. Reports of war-games enthusiasts taking potshots at them at one of the birds' key colonies, a small island off Sai Kung town, make grim reading.

The 50 hectares of Yeung Chau are not yet designated a nature reserve and, so far, there is little that can be done to stop the menace of militaristic clowns firing plastic pellets from compressed-air guns.

Kites, like so many other less visible species, have continued to survive in Hong Kong through an ability to adapt. They can be seen roosting on the tops of skyscrapers and nesting in pylons high above golf driving ranges in the heart of the city.

But quite how they will adapt to the threats from 'weekend soldiers' remains to be seen.

While the kites' strong beaks, keen eyesight and powerful talons suggest they are equipped to stage their own form of combat, they have never been known to attack humans. More likely they will simply fly away in a desperate search for another home.

So let us hope the planned patrols on the island by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department ensure the birds thrive for years to come - and that if anyone has to move, it is the wannabe soldiers and their pesky pea-shooters.

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