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Birds may stop singing in Laos, soon

It won’t be long before Laos stops hearing the friendly chirping of birds on their window sills. Or so it seems – going by the way they are being trapped in the most callous way by bird-trappers.
Laos has adequate laws in place to prevent the hunting and killing of animals or birds – a law nobody seems to fear or care about. Why is the death knell being sounded for the 700-odd bird species that see this country as their habitat – their home?
It is a fairly common sight to watch bird-trappers lay traps for – as this writer witnessed and documented to her astonishment – on a lazy Sunday morning in Vientiane.
Two men on a motorbike set the cruelest trap for birds. Carrying a long bamboo stick the duo set their eyes on birds in Nongbuathong Neua village. The birds once trapped are sold as food.
What is particularly infuriating is the ruthless manner in which the birds are trapped. Bamboo sticks smeared with glue are hooked to electricity poles, with the sound of humming birds being played to confuse the birds.

Sparrows are glued on top of a bamboo pole.

The sound tracks are changed depending on the specie that is being targeted. If the bird-catchers have set their hearts on Nokkachok (sparrow), the chirping that is played out is that of a sparrow.
This Sunday was reserved to reverse the fate of sparrows – that were meant to soar the skies, and not make it to food platters.
Ironically, it wasn’t the villagers that saved the sparrows – but dogs that alerted the birds with their incessant barking. They chased the men out of the area, alerting their human companions, but not before 20 sparrows had been trapped. For the bird catchers it was a small catch, but for the vanishing fauna – a massive loss.
The villagers have been worrying about the vanishing flora and fauna in the country and how unethical it is to trap birds and how long before the bird songs will fall silent?
One of the two men who were setting the traps for the birds told the Vientiane Times, sparrows are food for the locals.
“Vientiane is home to several bird species. We used to trap parrots, which are expensive. Nokkachok (sparrow) is relatively cheap,” the bird-trapper said.
He said early morning is a good time to trap Nokkachok because trapping a flock of birds makes more financial sense.
The flock of birds meet much like humans would for a cup of coffee before they set out for their daily routines, the bird-trapper said eliciting laughter from the villagers.
He said more bird species are circling the Vientiane skylines than ever before because some people have released exotic species - caged in their homes - for fear of bird flu.
Enough reason for the bird-trappers to be happy – who cares about the 700 bird species, especially in the lower Mekong sub-region, that see it as their home?
Isn’t it time the government cracked the whip on those violating the laws and save birds?
The researchers in the field of animals including birds together with relevant bodies in Laos and foreign countries have recognised that Lao forests are homes for more than 700 bird species in the lower Mekong sub-region. 
Currently, Laos is a home to more than 8,100 kinds of flowers, 500 species of fish, 166 reptile and amphibian species and 247 mammal species including more than 100 large mammal species and 90 different kinds of bat.

By Phon Thikeo
(Latest Update June 27, 2017)


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