A ban on the wild bird trade in HK 香港應禁止野生雀鳥買賣

A ban on the wild bird trade in HK 香港應禁止野生雀鳥買賣

Richard Corlett of HK University has sent an email to interested parties concerning the bird trade. An excerpt is below:

"I would like to suggest that we all
agree on the EU's solution, i.e. a permanent ban on the import of
wild-caught birds, with all captive-bred birds required to be fitted
with unique, traceable closed rings or microchips. If this was done
after consultation, and with perhaps a 1-year grace period, it should
cause nobody any hardship. Hong Kong can do without HK$4 birds.

It would only impact the high-volume low-profit-margin end of the
bird trade, since many of the most popular cage-birds are already
captive-bred and the parrots, at least, have numbered rings. The
massive improvement in bird welfare should please the Buddhists and -
I hope - they would have second thoughts about releasing more
expensive birds of obvious captive origin. I cannot see Beijing
or  Guangzhou objecting, since much of the current trade is illegal
or barely legal under a variety of local and national laws.

Would WWF, TRAFFIC, HKBWS and/or KFBG be interested in drafting a
formal proposal on this that we could then all sign?"

I would like to urge the Society to seriously consider this proposal. I believe strongly that it should have as a basic aim this permanent ban on wild-caught birds.

It is time for the Society to take a more pro-active role in this very important area, one that is central to the interests and concerns of its members.

Geoff Carey


I totally agree with Geoff suggestion. It is a great chance for our society to make the pro-active role in banning the wild bird trade in HK. I think not only the local NGOs will support this meaningful acts, but also the international organisation such as Birdlife International should surely at our side. In addition, for the sake of HK public health, it could minimize the chance of getting avifauna flu spread over our place. Dr. Ko Wing Man and Dr. Lo Wing Lok would also be on our side.

BirdLife responds to the EU ban on wild bird trade.



Comments from around the world, regarding Hong Kong's wild bird trade


I completely agree with the proposal.  In addition to the points already raised I firmly believe that the bird trade has a significant impact on wild bird populations.  This was reflected in the listing several years ago by CITIES of both Hwamei and Red-billed Leothrix.  I have also seen the by-catch of this trade in China where species of low economic value are killed rather than released, or where pretty but diffccult to keep insectivorous species are kept as pets until they die of starvation.  As such, I believe there are strong conservation reasons - in addition the animal welfare and public health reasons - for such a ban.

Perhaps the Society could instigate a petition we could sign to show our support for such a move.


Since the news of the EU ban first emerged, indeed to some extent since the latest wave of H5N1 over the last two winters, I've been hoping we'd start to hear calls for the bird trade to be banned completely, first in HK, and then hopefully thoughout the member countries of ASEAN, since they clearly aim to be a serious trading block, on a par with the EU, and since member states have been so much involved esp. Vietnam and Indonesia.

Having said that I think care is needed not to overplay the "wild birds carry H5N1" card - if they do it seems to me it is still much more likely they do so at low levels. It seems unlikely to me they play a major role in its spread - certainly munias don't - and none in its transmission to humans.

In any campaign these and other points must be emphasised; the elimination of any remote risk at all, the alleviation of wild bird suffering and the reduction of pressure on wild bird populations must be the main thrusts of any campaign.

I see this as a "silver lining" aspect to the sorry affair of H5N1, and to some extent to the even greater tragedy of SARS, since our government is clearly keen to be seen to be in the vanguard of attempts to fight potential epidemics.

Let's hope we see action quickly on this.

I'm sure a lot of us are ready to help in whatever way we can.

Mike Turnbull


Referring to Richard Corlett's full message, posted by lmichael in another thread, I agree there should be no 'mixed message' over what we want - a total ban on the movement into and through the HKSAR of all wild caught birds.

What can the point be in targetting some species and not others?

Clearly, for enforcement purposes, the sale points of all bird species need to be heavily restricted and these need to be subject to daily inspection by trained AFCD staff.

I can hardly think of more important work our Conservation Department could be doing at this time.

The release of any birds at all into the wild must also be made an offence.

Mike Turnbull.


I agree.

The EU has shut its doors to us already. Hong Kong, as a major transshipment centre for cagebirds from all over China and Indochina needs to demonstrate that it is willing to play its part by preventing birds infected with HPAI from being moved into Hong Kong or anywhere else in the world.

It should now be clear that the problems with HPAI come when either wild birds or poultry are crammed into crowded, stressful, unhealthy conditions where the viruses and the diseases they cause spread from bird to bird like wildfire.

Because of these conditions the quantities of the virus in each bird rises far higher than is normally the case in the wild, greatly increasing the risk of transmission and infection.

As these viral loads in individual caged birds and poultry become higher and higher, and with the constant reinfection caused by the cramped and unsanitary conditions, the conditions for subsequent mutation of the virus improve dramatically.

So at a stroke the risk of infection to humans around the world, and the risk of creating new, more deadly strains of H5N1 is dramatically increased by permitting the trade in wild birds into and through Hong Kong to continue.

So far the Hong Kong Government has:

1. Misapplied overseas legislation to determine when nature reserves should be closed. The HK Government used EU legislation designed to prevent HPAI spreading from one poultry farm to another to control the spread of HPAI fom wild birds to humans!

2. Disregarded global best practice in proposing to close wetlands if a bird infected with H5 is found within 3km of the site. Global experts suggested that wetland reserves should not be closed unless a major outbreak is discovered at the site.

3. Over-reacted to the risk of infection from wild birds, despite the advice of the experts in the disease both inside and outside Hong Kong. Remember, not a single person anywhere in the world has contracted H5N1 from a wild bird!

4.Created confusion by applying double standards to prevent human infection from infected birds found in urban and rural areas.  Despite the 3km rule for wetland reserves - birds found in urban areas are (sensibly) simply removed without the imposition of 21 day exclusion zones and life continues as normal.

5.Created unnecessary fear of wild birds by its own over-reaction and its desire to be seen to be doing something.

and  quixotically . . .

6.Failed to react appropriately to a situation which carries a more serious risk of human infection - wild-caught birds held in appalling conditions in close proximity to humans.

This is the story so far, and it is not a good one. It is clear that HK Government should:

A. Adopt the same approach as the EU and ban the import of all wild caught birds into and through Hong Kong

B. Ban the deliberate release of any birds into the wild unless conducted by licenced parties according  IUCN Guidelines or other global best practice.

C. Review its practice for closing wetland reserves in the case of the discovery of infected birds in the vicinity. Consultation involving those with expert knowledge of wild birds is essential.

D. Provide accurate and timely information about the risk of infection of humans from wild birds.

I am hoping for a serious outbreak . . .  a violent, highly contagious outbreak  . . . of a rare and unusual condition amongst our health and safety bureaucrats  .  .  .  a good strong dose of commonsense!


Mike Kilburn
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


I fully agree with the previous posting and especially with Mike Kilburn's clear statement at the end of the post as to the way forward.

Can we make this HKBWS policy and seek common ground on this with CA, WWF, KFBG and other stakeholders and a subsequent public statement/press release?

Today's SCMP has two good articles with statements from Mike Kilburn and Richard Corlett and the clear message that there is very strong link between releases and HK outbreaks.


Mike Leven


The Society will organise a press briefing to state our position in the coming week. Your comments are most welcome.

HKBWS Office
20 Jan 2007


I think government do not have any education to the public about the truth and data of the flu. It made the people having unneccessary fear towards the wild animals.

I totally support the ban of wild animals trading.


It seems to me that we need to get across the following across to the wider public:

- Birds such as munias are almost certainly nearly all healthy when trapped in the wild.

- They are then being either infected from another source altogether (poultry-related?) or cross-infected from perhaps one flu-stricken individual in a consignment while literally jammed together in crates during transportation.

- Finally they are being wilfully released back into the wild in HK, having been infected while in captivity.

How ridiculous is it that the Govt. allows that all that to continue?

My only, really tiny, quibble with what Mike Leven has said is personally that I don't it's advisable to talk of HK "outbreaks". We await some kind of explanation of what happened at Green Peak Villa, but apart from that I don't think isolated cases, with little or no evidence of onward transmission in HK, should be characterised as "outbreaks" - not by us anyway! Maybe I'm misinformed in some way there.

The way this campaign has quickly gathered momentum is excellent - well done to Richard and Mike K. in particular for what they have presented to the media, and how they have presented it.

Mike Turnbull


A press briefing is being organised this week to state the HKBWS position. So what is the position? Do we, members of the HKBWS, get to find out the position before the press briefing? Or a chance to comment on it? Or is it something that is decided by one or two people and then presented as the 'HKBWS position'?

If this discussion is anything to go by, then 100% of Society members support the imposition of a complete ban on the wild bird trade in HK or a trade that is rigourously controlled to maintain humaneness.

I hope that this is what comes out of the briefing. I cannot see how any other position could arise given that we are interested in the welfare and conservation of wild birds. I expect a justification of the position, whatever is presented, to appear on this Forum.



I support a complete ban on wild bird trade in Hong Kong.


Mike T is right to pull up my loose wording - incidents would be better.

For the record I support a permanent ban on all bird trade in Hong Kong except for proven and documented captive-bred individuals and I sincerely hope that HKBWS will take this position.

Mike Leven


I support a permanent ban on the trading of wild birds in HK.

There can be no reason what so ever for the society not to support this view

HK Twitcher


I totally agree, a total ban on the trading of wild birds in HK should be enforced. Not only for the preventition/control of the bird flu but also for theconservation of wild bird populations.

Some excellent points made throughout this thread which I hope will be reified by the Society.


24/1/07 蘋果 Apple Daily

An article by Dr. Lo Wing Lok comments on the recent case of birds carrying H5N1 in the city centre, pointing out that the birds are most probably released by people.  He recommended the government should review relevant legislation with reference to those already passed in the EU.

放 生 造 成 「 人 為 」 禽 流 感

已 是 連 續 兩 年 在 細 小 本 地 野 鳥 屍 體 發 現 H5N1 禽 流 感 病 毒 ; 發 現 地 點 亦 同 是 鬧 市 中 央 。 如 何 解 讀 ? 病 毒 並 非 來 自 臨 港 候 鳥 , 亦 非 來 自 家 禽 , 而 徹 頭 徹 尾 是 人 為 現 象 , 是 人 類 親 手 把 H5N1 病 毒 帶 進 市 中 心 。

勞 永 樂
全 民 健 康 動 力 主 席
傳 染 病 專 科 醫 生


香 港 位 處 禽 流 感 高 危 區 , 亦 是 人 口 密 集 的 城 市 , 政 府 宜 立 刻 檢 討 法 例 , 仿 效 歐 盟 , 以 預 防 由 於 自 作 孽 的 人 , 危 害 大 眾 安 全 。


Virologists inc Robert Webster urge halt to wild bird trade

Robert Webster's been a key blamer of wild birds for migrating about spreading H5N1 (I've emailed him at times, queried this notion).

Now, tho, reportedly seeing some daylight re HK records of dead munias etc with H5N1.
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Leading virologists urged governments on Saturday to curb the trade of wild birds as they can spread the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has made a comeback in many parts of the world in recent months.

The warning comes as Hong Kong confirmed a scaly-breasted munia found dead in late February in the densely-populated district of Sham Shui Po had tested positive for the H5N1.

It was the 13th wild bird to have been found dead with the virus in Hong Kong since the start of this year.

"The munia is not a migratory bird. Again, it points to humans and the trade in movement of birds that are responsible for spreading this virus," said virologist Robert Webster from St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Small, wild birds are bought and sold across borders and released for religious purposes in many parts of the world. The practice is particularly strong in Hong Kong, which has a huge population of Buddhists and Taoists. The city imports the small birds mostly from mainland China.
still manages to get in mention of migrating birds spreading it about, at the end - and his Trojan Ducks theory (might apply in domestic ducks, but could also be the case that vaccinated poultry harbour h5n1.
But, progress it seems.
Bird flu experts urge halt to wild bird trade

Maybe of interest - albeit late - I sent info to Promed, which appeared 7 Jan, on wild bird trade in HK, and mentioning this forum.