Milky Storks released without re-introduction
PETALING JAYA: The release of four pairs of milky storks into the wilds of the Matang mangrove forest in Perak on Sunday did not adhere to globally accepted rules on re-introduction of captive-bred animals.
Instead of being kept in an aviary to "acclimatise" them as dictated by protocol, the birds were released barely a day after they were taken from Zoo Negara in Ulu Klang, Selangor.
In the event to mark World Wetlands Day, Natural Resources and Environment parliamentary secretary Datuk Sazni Miah had released eight milky storks - an endangered species - in Matang. Zoo Negara director Dr Mohamad Ngah said the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) had last week requested for milky storks from the park, which has a healthy breeding population of over 80 birds, and the birds were given on condition that the release programme followed protocol and included housing the birds in an aviary prior to release.
World Wide Fund for Nature executive director Dr Dionysius Sharma said captive-bred animals are never released directly into a new environment as having been hand-fed; some cannot fend for themselves in the wild.
Wetlands International water bird conservation officer David Li, who attended the ceremony, observed the birds on the ground and perched on roofs of chalets for half a day.
"These birds have been kept in a small enclosure at Zoo Negara, so they currently lack the capability of long distance flight and their claws lack the capacity to perch on tree branches. This might limit their survival skills in the wild. Also, these birds have never faced any predators at Zoo Negara but Matang has abundant monitor lizards and long-tailed macaques, which might attack them."
Li, who led an 18-month study of the storks two years ago, said the released birds must be closely watched and recaptured if they do not fare well in the wild. He said the local community must be informed of the protected status of the birds, to prevent poaching.
Until press time, Perhilitan officials could not be reached for comment. In July, Perhilitan biodiversity director Siti Hawa Yatim had told The Star that the re-introduction programme in Matang would follow IUCN (World Conservation Union) protocol and would include an aviary, tall perches for the birds to build nests and possible culling of predators.
By Tan Cheng Li
6 March 2007
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